Highly-acclaimed lighting designer Joey Nicotera of Peabody is installing the lighting in the Black Box Theater.
Joey Nicotera of Peabody is installing the lighting in the Northeast Arc Black Box Theater. (Courtesy photo)
Business, Entertainment,

Let there be light at Northeast Arc’s new black box theater

PEABODY -- As the completion of Northeast Arc's new black box theater in downtown Peabody draws nearer, the potential for a variety of uses for the venue is coming more into focus, or, more specifically, into the spotlight.

One of the features that will make the black box a flexible space is the state-of-the-art lighting design coordinated by Peabody resident Joey Nicotera.

He is an information technology (IT) professional by trade, but Nicotera's passion is lighting. He has worked on projects at major venues such as the Museum of Science, and now focuses on stage, theatrical and event lighting.

"It's a part-time passion that I put 40 hours a week into," said Nicotera, founder of Retonica, an internationally acclaimed lighting design company. "I'm an IT manager 9-to-5, but the lighting work takes over after that."

Nicotera, who moved to Peabody from Everett last October, said the lighting design options in the black box theater in the ArcWorks Community Center will range from sophisticated to basic, thus making the theater accessible to a wide range of productions and events.

"There will be a digital lighting board that a novice will be able to operate on an iPad," Nicotera said. "There will be sample lighting programs that will be ready to go as is or that can be customized as desired."

That's one of the reasons Nicotera believes the impact of the black box theater will extend well beyond downtown Peabody.

"I think it's going to change the performance industry in this area," he said. "There's no other place in the area like it. There's nothing as flexible as this space.'

For example, Nicotera said, a production could be staged in one section of the space and "you will have the ability to touch a button and automatically control the lighting only in that area."

Nicotera has done temporary lighting for Arc events the last few years, including a fundraising event in the black box theater space last summer. He is a member of the Friends of the Black Box Theater Committee that is spearheading fundraising for the new theater.

Northeast Arc has raised approximately $445,000, including an $80,000 challenge grant from Janice and Ralph James, of Swampscott, on Jan. 24, and a $50,000 grant from the van Otterloo Family Foundation in December. Arc still needs to raise another $80,000 for lighting, sound, seating and concession stand to complete the project.

"We're grateful for everyone who has gotten behind this project, starting with the City of Peabody," said Susan Ring Brown, Northeast Arc chief development officer, noting that largest gift to date was a $100,000 grant from the Peabody Community Development Authority.

Brown said the black box theater will provide performance and employment opportunities for those with and without disabilities, and the performances will be greatly enhanced by Nicotera's handiwork.

"Joey is a great asset to this project," Brown said. "Not only does he do outstanding work, but he is invested in Northeast Arc and our mission, so in many ways this is a labor of love for him. We're lucky to have him."

The projected opening for the black box theater is sometime this spring.

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