March 2021 Newsletter


Photo Credit: Mike Kutz

Getting Closer to Larger Audiences

The board of directors on Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. has been actively monitoring and weighing COVID data and guidelines to assess when to broaden the audiences for the entertainment offerings at the restored theatre. We are now operating at no more than 25% of capacity allowed in the building. The theatre seats 360 (compared to 620 when it was built). We have never come close to the seating capacity because the coronavirus shutdown slammed the doors one day after our grand opening March 14, 2020. We were dark for two months before reopening on a very limited basis. Our goal as a board was to create the safest theatre possible during the pandemic. We adopted every available safety protocol. Clearly the covid dynamics are changing rapidly for the better as the number of immune people increases dramatically. We will keep you posted on any changes in the size of the allowable audiences. Meanwhile, our safety protocols are in place until further notice. (Photo credit: Mike Kutz)

Welcome, Emily Schnaare – As we prepare for a return to more robust operations, we will need to intensify our marketing and communications. To that end, Jeff Potts, our executive director, has hired as our initial marketing and communications manager. Emily Schnaare has an extensive academic and experience in those two disciplines. She holds an associate degree from Moraine Park Technical College and worked in those fields at Sendik’s. She has a winning personality that she will bring to our operations March 17. One of the big pluses for Emily is that she was born and raised in West Bend and now lives here with her husband. Look for more exciting promotions of our upcoming programs. She will also assist managing our part time and volunteers for events.

West Bank Renovations Will Help – The City of West Bend has kicked off the underground work for utilities and other structures on the west bank of the Milwaukee River behind the theatre construction crews from three utilities are already at work burying their lines and other terminals. Work on the segment to the south of the northern pedestrian bridge will follow and be completed by next year. The segment to the north of the north pedestrian bridge will kick off in 2022, including the underpass of Hwy 33. The Milwaukee River is the city’s prettiest asset, and the transformation of its east and west banks will make it a big draw for the downtown. Theatre-goers will be able to approach the building from the Riverwalk as well as Main Street. Kudos to Cindy Leinss and City Hall in general for leading and executing this complicated project.

Renovation of the Alley – Included in the 2021 work will be an upgrade of the 10-foot-wide alley to the north of our building. Design work is underway. It has the possibility of being a charming space and a draw to the river.

New Garden Plot Out Front – Native plants have been planted in the small, green area in the front of the theatre. The Monarchs should love the little garden and will be arriving when the butterfly weeds are blooming.

History of Theater to be Honored – A short history of the theatre will be permanently displayed next to Jeff Darrow’s painting of the original building in the lobby. Kathleen Mentor and Gus Peter are doing the design and installation. The theater has a rich history, so not everything could be included, but we hope you enjoy the summary of the 91-year history of The Bend as a centerpiece in our city. There will also be a permanent display recognizing our significant donors to the restoration project. Further displays of artifacts from the theatre will follow in the balcony lobby as the items become available. Part of the charm of the venue is the story of its place in the hearts and minds of the citizens of the community.

Thanks to COVID Emergency Donors – A good number of the donors for the restoration of the building stepped forward in mid 2020 with emergency gifts to get our non-profit corporation through the economic slowdown that continues to this day. Those gifts made the difference in allowing this theatre to continue with limited programming during the downturn. We are planning to get back to sustainable operations by this fall, COVID conditions allowing.

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