NEW YORK CITY: The Apollo Theater has announced that the 99-seat theatre in the new Victoria Theater complex will be named after president and CEO Jonelle Procope, who has announced that she will leave the organization by the end of 2023 after serving there for two decades. The facility is under renovation and is slated to open later this year.
“Jonelle’s leadership has transformed the Apollo into an internationally recognized cultural institution, expanding it into one of the largest Black performing arts organizations,” Apollo board chair Charles E. Phillips said in a statement. “Throughout her tenure, the Apollo has served as an anchor for the revitalization of the legendary 125th Street in Harlem and as a center for community and national discourse. It’s fitting that for years to come, as artists and audiences enter the theaters at the Victoria, they will be able to experience culture in a space that bears Jonelle’s name.”
Over the last 20 years, Procope has transformed the Apollo by implementing a long-term plan for the restoration and expansion of the historic theatre into a vibrant cultural and civic resource in Harlem. She spearheaded the organization’s expansion to the Victoria Theater and oversaw the Apollo’s five-year strategic plan to transform the institution in 2018. Procope’s stewardship of the Apollo led the Ford Foundation to name the theatre one of America’s Cultural Treasures. Under her leadership, the Apollo has raised more than $63 million for its capital campaign project and has developed the theatre’s first major commissioning program, Apollo New Works.
“I’m honored that a space that will support creatives in our dynamic community will be named for me and my family,” Procope said in a statement. “The realization of a project of this magnitude has long been a strategic goal of the Apollo, and it will be incredible to see the impact this space will have on generations of artists and arts professionals to come.”
The surprise announcement took place at a celebration in honor of Procope at the Ford Foundation.
The Victoria Theater, adjacent to the Apollo, was designed in 1917. The Apollo’s new space will be located on the third and fourth floors of the Victoria Theater Redevelopment Project, a public-private partnership, the Victoria will host two new flexible theatre spaces, one with 99 seats and one with 199 seats.
The Apollo Theater is a vital center of culture, innovation, and creativity in Harlem. With music at its core, the Apollo’s programming extends to dance, theatre, spoken word, and more, and has staged multiple world premieres. Since introducing their first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo has served as a testing ground for new artists working across a variety of art forms. As of 2021, the theatre had a budget of approximately $33.3 million.
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