The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center is cautiously opening its doors a little wider. The theater will return to full capacity Sept. 5, beginning with The Villages Philharmonic Orchestra Labor Day Celebration Pops concert. Full capacity also means the venue will welcome back touring acts and star headliners for the 2021-22 season. Since October 2020 it has been operating at about 20 percent capacity, or 200 seats. “Full capacity will be nice for both performers and audience members. More laughs and more applause is always welcome. But most importantly, this is how the business of theater survives, by selling capacity houses. I am excited and hopeful for our industry to get back to business as usual,” said artistic director Whitney Morse. “However, the performing arts are far from being in the clear; with variants popping up and vaccine hesitancy all over, I fear we will not be a thriving industry for many years. So, please do your part, get vaccinated and then come see live entertainment.”
The theater still encourages patrons to wear masks, and many volunteers have preferred wearing them, said Elizabeth Constant, booking coordinator at the theater. Hand sanitation stations are still available in the lobby and auditorium, and the cleaning crew continues to uphold extended cleaning services, she added.
It will continue offering digital programs, which patrons can find at thesharon.com or by scanning QR codes in the lobby.
Patrons should stay home if they are sick, have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or have recently been exposed to COVID-19.
“Opening up to full capacity will only be successful if all parties continue to do everything possible to protect themselves and their neighbors,” said Jason Goedken, operations manager of The Sharon.
Preparations are underway for shows, which include The Villages Philharmonic Orchestra, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Lee Rocker and Jon Lehrer Dance Company in September.
“For each show, we always advance all of the needs of the touring artists,” Constant said. “A production tour sends us a copy of their tech rider which specifies all of the technical equipment and hospitality things they need. Our staff communicates with their staff to advance all details in order for the venue to be ready for when they arrive.”
The theater also has made small changes to its lighting and sound systems. Most of the changes in the past year, however, have been to staffing, said Constant.
“We are continually adding new and additional staff members at The Sharon in order to improve our patrons’ experience from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they walk out,” she said. “In the last three months alone we have added a new production supervisor, Jon Cronin, a new master carpenter, Alison Scharvella, two new assistant house managers, Sierra Baggins and Doug Montgomery, and a new assistant artist liason, Cassie Francois.”
And hopefully, it will be adding new patrons, too.
“We are excited to have you,” Constant said.
Staff writer Liz Coughlin can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.