ITHACA, N.Y. — The State Theatre of Ithaca is launching its fall season this week with a big performance lineup and a more accessible theater to enjoy it.

“We’re excited we’re a more inclusive theater now,” Executive Director Doug Levine said.

With the update, the theater has gone from five ADA-accessible seats to 13. The beauty of the project, Levine said, is that did not lose any seating with the upgrade. They are also adding a couple wider, “buddy seats” for people who don’t feel comfortable in the smaller seats that will be available later in September.

A view from one of the new ADA-accessible seats added to the State Theatre. In total, 13 ADA-accessible seats were added. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)
A view from one of the new ADA-accessible seats added to the State Theatre. In total, 13 ADA-accessible seats were added. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

The State Theatre is kicking off its 90th season Tuesday with a sold-out Joan Baez performance. On Wednesday, the comedy show “Whose Live Anyway?” returns. Later this month on Sept. 27, Hot Tuna will perform with special guest Chris Smither. The other show in September is Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls with Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Bad Cop/Bad Cop. This season will also feature ballet performances like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Nutcracker,” the movie “Psycho” with a live orchestra Oct. 21, and others.

Don McLean is also returning to Ithaca this season for the first time in about 40 years, Levine said. The State Theatre will officially celebrate its 90th birthday Dec. 8 and 9 weekend.

When the State Theatre originally opened in 1928, it featured wooden seats. Fortunately in the mid-1950s, those seats were upgraded to the comfier, red-cushioned seats that are still in use today. The upgrades this summer, including the seats and other work to the theater, cost about $100,000 in total, and were the biggest upgrades to the theater in years, Levine said.

State Theatre of Ithaca. (Courtesy of Casey Martin/State Theatre)

The theater has also added more than 30 new cushioned removable seats to the front, which also has a refinished floor. They will be used for reserved-seat shows, but can be packed away easily for general admission shows to create a place to dance.

The ADA-accessible seats that were added are scattered throughout the theater and are not just all up front like the majority were before. Levine said he consulted with the Finger Lakes Independence Center about the project and got guidance on how to distribute the seats.

Having the accessible seats of front presented two challenges. One was that because the seats were up front, people had to pay front row price. The newly added seats will now be more affordable. The second issue was during general admission shows, many people end up dancing, which blocks the view of people sitting in the front row.

“Speaking personally, I have family members that have accessibility issues that find it challenging coming here and I feel great that we have more options for them,” Levine said.

Learn more about the State Theatre and upcoming shows at their website. To reserve an ADA-accessible seat, people are encouraged to call the box office at 607-277-8283 or stop by downtown at 105 W. State/Martin Luther King Jr. St.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.