After being closed for more than a year, the historical Geauga Theater reopens on Friday (Sept. 10) under new management with its first show “Back to the ’80s.”
The triumphant return of the arts to Chardon Square comes courtesy of Thrive Performing & Visual Arts, which was selected by the city last December for programming and management of the theater.
“I am hoping Chardon residents and the surrounding community will be excited for the return of the arts and the updates to the theater,” said Thrive Managing Director Brett Boardwine. “Of course, our programming and offerings will be different from what people have come to expect, and for some this will come with some hesitancy and questions. For others, these changes will be exciting and engaging, so we have a lot to offer and we hope people will come check us out.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Sept. 2 ahead of the theater’s first live production in over a year with plenty of fanfare.
Chardon Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melissa Ricco said they are thrilled to have an operating theater in the community and to have the arts return.
“Not only will Thrive bring live stage performances, but they will offer other forms of entertainment such as cinematic features and bands,” said Mrs. Ricco. “Our city and the Chardon Square Association provide live bands during the summer and these events are very well attended, so to have the opportunity to have bands performing year-round will be well received.”
Mrs. Ricco also said that she hopes the impact of the theater will bring in people from out of town to local retail, restaurants and service providers.
“If visitors plan this right, they can take advantage of the businesses and organizations of Chardon and surrounding areas by shopping and/or dining before or after a performance,” said Mrs. Ricco.
The historical theater built in 1939 previously was occupied by the Geauga Lyric Theater Guild, which was forced to shut down in the spring of 2020 due to financial issues.
The 292-set theater is a beautiful art-deco treasure which underwent extensive renovations.
Mr. Boardwine said the renovation process has been both equally stressful and exciting.
“To be cost effective and stretch our dollar as far as possible, we tackled most projects ourselves and we had support from a number of volunteers, friends and, of course, those who donated to our capital campaign in which we raised over $10,000,” said Mr. Boardwine. “The city was absolutely wonderful throughout the process, we received financial and physical support on a number of items including new carpeting, the fire escape, stage floor, compliance issues, amongst other things.”
Mr. Boardwine said Thrive has so much more it wants to accomplish with only limited resources.
“We are an ambitious group and have found ourselves needing to be reminded that we are running a marathon and not a sprint,” said Mr. Boardwine. “More renovations can be expected as we continue to transform the use of the space.”
Thrive’s first show, “Back to the ’80s,” captures the sights, sounds and spirit of America’s most colorful decade during a lively concert of classic 1980s hits.
Thrive has produced and hosted numerous music-only performances as well as themed concerts and live bands since it began in 2015.
Programming at the historic theater will include live music, musical theater and classic cinema.
Thrive will generate much of the entertainment staged at the Geauga Theater, but will also host outside acts including dance companies, bands, orchestras, comedians and more.
Mr. Boardwine said he is looking forward to being over the hurdles of renovation and preparation.
“So much work has gone in just to get to the point of being able to open,” said Mr. Boardwine. “We’ve spent so much time talking about the entertainment and opportunities we are going to provide the community and now we get to actually do it, so I’m looking forward to staging our first production and keeping the ball rolling from there. We have so much more planned for 2021 alone with two additional productions of our own, two live bands, an orchestra and three movies.”
Six shows are expected to be show-cased as part of the season with three taking place in 2021 and the other three in 2022.
“We haven’t performed live for an audience as a group in well over a year, yet during that time this opportunity has moved us along into the future,” said Mr. Boardwine. “It is gratifying and encouraging to know that we managed to move the organization forward even in the midst of a global pandemic; however, at the end of the day we are most excited to get back to doing what we do best, produce entertaining shows and performing live.”