Published November 2020
Lake Erie Shores & Islands is a proud supporter of the arts. The performing arts have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of several events and the closing of venues due to group gathering and social distancing guidelines. In June 2020 the iconic Sandusky State Theatre suffered structural damage in a severe storm that hit the region. We asked the theater’s Executive Director, Chris Parthemore, to update us on the theater and its progress. This is his guest post. Please consider a donation this holiday season, perhaps on Giving Tuesday, December 1, 2020, to help support the theater and its restoration efforts. Donations to the theater can be made at eriefoundation.org. We are looking forward to the reopening of the theater and years of entertainment to come.
“Don’t worry about mistakes. Making things out of mistakes, that’s creativity.” This quote by famed artist Peter Max has been a mantra for us at the Sandusky State Theatre, but could easily be applied to the glass half full attitude of the Shores & Islands region during this tumultuous year.
As you might know, the western portion of our beloved theater was destroyed by a storm on June 10th of this year. 2020 has had its share of gut punches, but this one was particularly painful for the community. Since the storm, we’ve heard countless stories from people who once worked at the theater, saw their first movie here, and even met their significant other here. Theaters aren’t just buildings – they are an anchor that holds the social fabric of a community together. Pieces of art themselves, their memories include laughter, tears, tragedies, and triumphs. They are a reflection of their respective communities, but also a beacon of hope for the people that make up those communities.
A successful theater can contribute to a community in more ways that you could imagine. Studies show us that children who are exposed to the arts do better in school, are more likely to be satisfied with their social lives, and are more successful in their careers. We also know that your average patron spends about $30 in the community every time they attend a show. That number increases to almost $50 if someone is visiting the community from out of town. Theaters provide millions of dollars a year to a local economy, support small businesses, and can provide much needed educational support for the children in a community.
Knowing the profound impact we are capable of having, we declared less than hour after the storm that we would be rebuilding. Within a week, our board of directors followed with their own declaration. We worked swiftly to save what was left of the building in the aftermath of the storm and we were able to save the 1928 Page organ and the beautiful chandelier. Our immediate goal was to put a roof on the auditorium by winter in hopes of protecting the rest of the building from potentially harsh weather.
Once we complete that first phase, we are turning our attention to planning our new stage and stagehouse. While we are crushed the storm happened, we now have the opportunity to rebuild the stage and stagehouse to more properly fit the needs of modern entertainment. The original theater was a 1928 Vaudeville house and one of the features of that style is a thin stage. The lack of depth in our previous stage made it difficult to house Broadway shows, large concerts, and other more elaborate programming. This is just one example of an improvement that could benefit the community for years to come.
This planning phase and the next phases of construction will take some time. We will be gathering input from our partners, stakeholders, and the community about what they’d like to see in the future, and how we can meet those needs.
An investment in theater, and especially the Sandusky State Theatre is an investment in your community. This season, please remember us when planning your giving. We are lucky to have a community that has continued to support us and in this trying time your support is especially appreciated.
We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season,
Sandusky State Theatre