Flat Rock – Flat Rock Playhouse is more than halfway toward its $1.5 million fund drive as it fights its way back after having to cancel last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with capacity restrictions this year.
This is a pivotal time as the playhouse tries to “navigate this very tough COVID year,” Producing Artistic Director Lisa K. Bryant stated.
The Rock Solid Campaign fundraiser began in February. Bryant said that in its first four months it already raised two-thirds of the $1.5 million target.
“Our wonderful patrons and donors, sponsors and partners have made gifts and pledges in the amount of nearly $900,000. That is amazing!” Bryant said.
David and Sharon Leiman launched the campaign with their $118,000 challenge matching grant. The FRP main stage is named Leiman for the couple’s earlier generous donations. Charlotte and Bob Otto last week pledged to match as much as $85,000 in contributions. They are also longtime major donors.
The Rock Solid fundraising committee is co-chaired by Dr. Pete and Jan Richards.
Awaiting Half-Capacity Green Light
Bryant noted the break-even point for a typical production is not yet allowed by state restrictions but she hopes it soon is. It will take the state allowing 50 percent of capacity to be filled to near breaking even and 53 percent precisely based on her estimations. “Right now, the gathering and spacing limits make it financially infeasible to reopen,” Bryant stated weeks ago on the FRP website. “Under current guidelines, we can seat only about 130 people (30% of the house). We need to be able to fill at least 230 seats to make a show financially feasible. When the guidelines change, we’ll be ready to get back into the theatre.” If 130 seats are 30 percent of capacity, then the house seats 433 people. And if 230 seats need to be sold then that target is 53 percent of 433 seats.
Bryant and staff are weighing options based on “state limits on gathering size, social distancing requirements, and spread of the virus in our community as new (i.e from India) variants arise,” Bryant observed.
Audience preferences are also critical. The FRP website staged an online survey a month ago to learn “factors and concerns that would make you more or less likely to attend again.”
One option brought up in that survey is designating some performances for only admitting people who can prove they either got full vaccination against COVID or a recent negative COVID test. Another option is having all FRP staff and ushers vaccinated.
Spacing apart patrons not in the same group could help. Requiring all patrons wear masks was also cited in the survey. In contrast, if only unvaccinated people were required to wear masks then it would rely on an honor system. Optional rather than mandated mask-wearing is an alternative.
A key question is on which sanitary safeguards would entice the patron to attend a show. Measures include putting in hand sanitizers, daily disinfection of the playhouse interior and increasing HVAC airflow during shows.
“Your responses will help us decide when and how to reopen Flat Rock Playhouse safely and comfortably,” Bryant stated.
The 69-year-old playhouse “barn” has recent upgrades with plush seats, a new sound system, and an ADA-compliant sound “loop” that enhances one’s hearing device by dampening ambient noise.
The survey suggested September for the first FRP plays of 2021.
Queen Songs in Falcon Land
Meanwhile, FRP is venturing outdoors for its first Music on the Rock show to lead off the overall season next month. Holding it outside provides patrons an odds-on more germ-free environment than in a confined indoor venue where such shows are usually held.
The Music of Queen will be staged on West Henderson’s football-soccer Johnson Field. That will be on Saturday, Aug. 14 starting at 8 p.m. The stadium is the largest in Henderson County and holds about 1,500 people, according to Public Schools Supt. Dr. John Bryant. Corn hole games, food trucks and jumbo screens are among family amenities at the concert. Alcohol will not be sold there.
An all-star cast of musician-actors plays hit Queen covers such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Keep Yourself Alive,” “Under Pressure,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Somebody to Love,” and “We are the Champions.” These musicians have put on other FRP musical tributes. Many have Broadway experience. Nat Zegree starred on the main stage as zany Amadeus and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Dustin Brayley and Ryan Guerra fronted Music on the Rock acts playing hits of The Beatles and The Eagles. Brayley is a lead vocalist and guitarist of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Guerra did shows in Vegas. The lineup also has guitarists Eric Anthony and Ryan Dunn and drummer Paul Babelay.
Tickets are $20-30 per bleacher seat, or $10-20 for sitting in your own chair further from the midfield stage. Tickets to Music of Queen can be purchased by calling 693-0731 or online via Flatrockplayhouse.org. That site posts the weekly FRP “Rock Out” newsletter updates.