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Stage Is Set

Struthers Library Theater reopens with restrictions

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The staff of Struthers Library Theatre (from left) Technical Manager Bob Priest, Office Coordinator Jenn Scalise, Executive Director Wendy McCain, and Marketing and Education Manager Eric Morelli are ready to reopen the facility Wednesday and Friday with socially-distanced showings of Sandlot.

The time has come to re-open the cultural hub of Warren.

Struthers Library Theatre hosted Music in the Park on Friday, and will show The Sandlot to limited crowds at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.

The theater has been shut down since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rules are clear enough now for re-opening.

Executive Director Wendy McCain said the theater fits under the rules for businesses and will follow all applicable regulations.

“We have a detailed opening plan available on our website,” McCain said. “We’ll accommodate all that. We’re open, safe, and ready to seat.”

The distancing rules mean this will not be a year of national headliners. A maximum gathering of 250 won’t cut it for national acts.

It’s more about making sure the theater is available in the community.

“We’re looking at some smaller shows,” McCain said. “We understand we’re a luxury. For people that are not ready, we understand that. For the people that want to come to a performance, we’re here.”

“We’ve been very conscious that we’re here to entertain, enrich, educate,” she said.

“We would always like to make money, but, for now, it’s a service,” she said. “We’re committed to not reducing performer fees.”

McCain is hopeful that the restrictions will be gone, or at least reduced, when Samantha Fish performs two shows on Saturday, Aug. 15, or at least by the time the Gin Blossoms come to town on Friday, Nov. 13.

Circumstances could have been worse. The theater’s members and sponsors have been very generous through the pandemic, she said. “The community support from our memberships to our sponsorships has given us the ability to hang in there. It takes a lot of work to keep this theater going whether we have a show or not.”

Donations through Warren Gives were up 55 percent, she said.

And, the staff was able to work with all the performers on the calendar over the past three months to reschedule those events.

The shut-down opened up some maintenance opportunities. “That gave me the place to myself for two months,” Technical Manager Bob Priest said.

The pandemic-induced downtime also taught the staff some lessons.

In the past, they had gotten together occasionally and unofficially. During the heart of the pandemic, they held daily virtual meetings. “We had updated our tech prior to the stay-at-home order,” McCain said. “We were 100 percent in the cloud. That allowed us to work from home. We videoconferenced every day.”

“We’ve been doing more as a team,” she said.

“It gave us purpose when everything was stripped away,” Marketing and Education Manager Eric Morelli said.

“We were talking to each other every day,” Office Coordinator Jenn Scalise said. “It made us stronger as a group.”

“The daily meetings stuck around because they were so helpful,” Morelli said.

“Everybody listens to what we have to say,” Scalise said. “No one’s ideas are discounted. Our lives are all involved in the theater. One big happy theater family.”

“We all got a lot done,” McCain said.

“One of the things I try to remind myself of is to have fun,” McCain said. “I like that positive energy for the theater.”

The choice of The Sandlot — a movie about youth baseball players — was a significant one for the staff.

“We chose the Sandlot because the kids got shut down” from their seasons, Priest said.

“We even reached out to the Little League board,” Scalise said.

After the Sandlot, Warren Players will perform Frog and Toad from July 16 through 19.

The theater will host another movie on July 29 and 31.

“The movie Dark Side of the Rainbow is (Pink Floyd’s) Dark Side of the Moon playing in the background with the Wizard of Oz on screen,” Priest said. “The album will play one time through then Pink Floyd’s The Wall.”

Pink Floyd spans a broad spectrum of listeners. “We have that audience that lived during that era, and the younger cult following,” McCain said. “It’s multi-generational.”

On Aug. 1, Heron will perform.

Cello Fury will be featured on Saturday, Sept. 5.

Yankee Bush Productions has Shania Twin lined up for Saturday, Sept. 19, and the Floyd Concept for Friday, Oct. 9.

“We are also going to involve some local bands,” Priest said.

The first of those will be Slow Motion Breakdown’s second to last show and the second will be Heron.

“We’re really ready for people to be back in these seats,” Priest said.

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