The holiday season is often called the season of giving.
For board members of the Highlands Performing Arts Center and the Highlands Playhouse, the 2020 holidays are being marked as a season of collaboration.
With plans to expand the PAC on the horizon, both groups are busy working to determine what the impact of the new and improved facility will be on the arts community. In 2022, the Highlands Playhouse will take up residence at the PAC, leaving its current Oak Street location behind.
“We have been working on this plan for years now and we are really excited to see what the future holds,” Highlands Playhouse board chair Dave Healy said. “As an organization we wanted to look toward the future and determine what is the best course of action for the Playhouse and the PAC. Being under one roof seems like a natural fit.”
PAC Executive Director Mary Adair Trumbly noted that the transition has gone smoothly thus far as the groups have begun coordinating future show dates. The organizations now share a box office and ticketing system, which creates a one-stop shop for consumers.
“The Playhouse is known for their phenomenal summer performance lineup, and also for showing movies throughout the year,” Trumbly said. “Once the expansion is complete we will have no problem accommodating those shows at the PAC and we will be able to show movies as well. We’ve already measured the screen and the equipment and it will fit in our new theater.”
Trumbly added that the new theater at the PAC will also have a fly system, something unavailable to the Playhouse staff at the current location. The addition of a fly system will allow the Playhouse to put on a wider variety of shows if they choose.
The original PAC expansion plans called for a new 400-seat theater to be added at the facility along with a Black Box theater. Recently the PAC board unveiled revamped plans that feature a new 300-seat theater, to open in 2022. The Black Box theater has been put on hold, but is still in the facilities future plans according to Trumbly.
“The new theater will be state of the art and it will allow us to be so much more versatile with our offerings for the PAC, the Playhouse, and groups like the Highlands Chamber Music Festival and the Highlands Cashiers Players who also use this facility,” PAC board president Nancy Harrison said. “It’s a big undertaking, but once its done the PAC will be a hub for all things performing arts related in Highlands.”
Healy noted that the PAC expansion project will allow the Playhouse to take up residence and leave the Oak Street building in 2022. It’s a move that he and his board are eagerly anticipating.
“Our current building has been wonderful for us, but it’s getting old and it’s very limited,” Healy said. “If we were to go through and make everything Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and fix all the issues we have with the building we would basically need to gut it and start over, which just isn’t possible.”
Another plus for the Playhouse when it moves into the PAC will be additional parking and an easier ingress and egress. The current Playhouse shares a parking lot with the Highlands Police Department and on-street parking is limited on Oak Street.
Just as important as the physical move to the PAC in 2022, Healy added that the move represents a coming together of the performing arts community as it evolves to meet the needs of the public.
“In the past it has seemed like everyone is working in their own silo, multiple groups doing arts programming, but no one really coordinating anything,” Healy said. “Since we have been working with the PAC, Mary Adair and her board, it feels like we are breaking down some of those silos and creating partnerships that will benefit multiple groups.”
As for the coming 2021 performance season, Healy is hopeful that the Playhouse will be alive with activity for a final run of shows on Oak Street. The summer performance schedule was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are planning shows for 2021 and working toward that goal,” Healy said. “It is a long process when you talk about picking shows to do, auditioning and hiring actors, building sets, and all that goes into each production. We will be jumping right in in January in hopes that a 2021 season will be possible.”
The PAC also had most of its performances cancelled by COVID-19, but Trumbly has been able to reschedule many of the shuttered acts for performances in 2021.
“There is a lot of uncertainty right now as to what the world is going to look like from week to week and month to month,” Harrison said. “When people are ready and able to return to live entertainment venues we plan to be ready to welcome them.”