The Merc Playhouse, darkened by pandemic, readies for revival after renovation – Methow Valley News

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Since the first pandemic was closed in March 2020, the theater lights have been dim, but the Merc Playhouse has been dormant.

Although Merc has been unable to open for the past 10 months, its board of directors and staff have spent a lot of time rethinking and remodeling the theater’s ticketing and seating areas, as well as providing audiences with a high-quality live theater experience. Merc's executive director Missi Smith said that once the live performance venue can reopen, it will adopt a COVID-friendly format.

Smith said that when they finally return to The Merc, the first thing viewers might notice is the new outdoor ticket window, which is built into the large window to the left of the main entrance. Once you have purchased a ticket (or checked in for a contactless ticket previously purchased online), you will enter the audience seat and find your chair or chair.

However, these will not be the curved, reclining seats purchased during a major rebuild of Merc nearly a decade ago. Instead, these will be brand new individual seats with cup holders that can be hooked together to form stadium seats, or installed in pairs or groups of four or pods.

Smith said: "This will allow us to hold up to 140 people again,". "Otherwise, we will only be able to set up a part of the chair to create an atmosphere similar to a dinner theater. We will be able to create a private environment for certain performances."

Smith also pointed out that the movable seats “opened up future flexibility for us in a very cool way.” For example, when Methow Valley Elementary School drove the entire school to see the Tom Zbysevsky Children’s Theater in two shifts, Smith said that students can sit on the carpet in the seats.

"Our audience wants these seats," Smith said. He added that the seats were purchased with funds from the 2020 Give Methow event (a crowdfunding event provided by the North China Washington Community Foundation) and an anonymous donor's competition.

Regarding the precautions for COVID seating, Smith said: “The audience will sit in small groups and deliberately create space for everyone. You don’t need to climb other people’s legs to reach anywhere. You will be able to see yours in the theater Friends, but you will be alienated from them. Initially, we could only accommodate 25% of the seats (about 35 people)."

Other COVID modifications include the production of shorter programs (no more than 90 minutes), which are broadcast continuously without interruption; replacement of HVAC systems, and installation of commercial air scrubbers rated for Merc; online programs are provided instead of hard copies; Allow spectators to book refreshments and wait for them to be seated; and implement one-way traffic, allowing spectators to enter from one door and leave from another. Smith and her board of directors are also considering the configuration of the technology booth, which has been in an awkward position for the past few years.

"We are just rethinking how all aspects of the theater experience work," Smith said. Who can rethink and imagine better than a group of creative minds? "This is correct for the traders of our creative team," Smith said. "It really opens up many interesting creative expression doors for us. We think a lot outside the box."

In the past 10 months, without ticket sales, Merc has been making a living through various COVID relief measures, such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) of the Association of Small Businesses and the Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Smith said a smaller audience size will reduce The Merc ticket revenue, so "we may reduce the performance time and perform more performances, or we may provide movies and evening shows on Saturday and Sunday." Although no performances or performances have been scheduled yet, as it is uncertain when the governor can resume performances under the governor’s "Renaissance Roadmap" reopening plan, Smith predicts that the first performance in the COVID era will be the Readers' Theater-in the past few years , This type is very popular among actors and audiences in Methow Valley.

Smith said that for a long time, COVID considerations will "affect our programming choices." She admitted that “something may not be allowed to happen in the theater until the summer or later”, but she advises readers that the theater format is closely integrated with the COVID problem.

She said: "The rehearsal time is more restricted than the entire performance. There is no change in costumes. Many scripts use small actors and there is almost no cover, so the backstage time is quite limited." "The audience likes these shows."

When the pandemic closed all indoor gatherings and live performances in March last year, Merc entered the last week of rehearsal before opening the annual children's theater show "Foxstic Fox". Approximately 30 Methow Valley children served as actors and staff for the show, which was both disappointing and rebellious. Smith said that Merc did not rule out the possibility of outdoor performances this summer.

She said: "We have waited for the'Mr. Fox'." "We need to do this before the children's clothing exceeds theirs."

Today is January 31, 2021


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