THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Adding Diversity and Dimension to an Evolving Line-up
13th January, 2022 0
By Robert E. Martin
The Great Lakes Bay Region is proudly home to many unique and iconic theaters and performance centers, but none so singular as the stunning Temple Theatre, once branded as the ‘Showplace of Northeastern Michigan’, which carries a reputation extending beyond provincial boundaries as the most beautiful historic theatrical venue still standing in the state of Michigan north of Detroit.
Built by Osgood & Osgood as a beautiful movie palace in 1926 after the city’s previous concert hall was lost to a fire, this same architectural firm later constructed the Fox Theatre in Detroit the next year. Originally operated by the W.S. Butterfield movie chain, when it opened on July 28, 1927, The Temple was a technological marvel featuring fireproof construction, geo-thermal cooling of the auditorium, spectacular acoustics, and state of the art stage rigging and dimming systems for the lights – not to mention its immaculate architecture and sense defining harmonics rising out of its Barton Butterfield Special Pit Theatre Organ, which is the only one in the world remaining intact in its original condition.
With a stage graced by legends ranging from blues guitarist B.B. King to comedian George Carlin and vocalist Art Garfunkel, after marking its 90th Anniversary back in April 2018, their 2019-20 season was cut short by the Pandemic. But thankfully, the Temple Theatre is now poised to embark upon their 92nd Season by offering a divergent range of nationally known musical artists and theatrical productions, in addition to their ongoing Saginaw Silver Screen Series.
When asked the impact of losing an entire year and commencing their new season in the Winter as opposed to the Fall, the Temple’s Creativity & Marketing Manager Thor Rasmussen sheds a smile of relief and admits that while COVID threw a wrench into everything, it also provided the impetus for The Temple to rethink its approach.
“In the past we defined our programming blocks as ‘seasons’, but now we are releasing and announcing shows in stages as opposed to releasing everything at once,” he explains. “Our new approach tells the story of what’s going on at the theatre differently, as we will be rolling shows out on an ongoing basis, as opposed to announcing everything all at once.”
“The season model works well in some environments and venues,” continues Thor, “especially is a particular series consists of a group of shows; but what we’re finding now is that the way people are attending shows is by shopping them on an individual basis verses a whole season. I think this creates a different level of engagement with the theatre than we may have had in the past, so how we fill the calendar is going to be an ongoing process.”
Fortunately, during the course of the Pandemic the Temple was able to acquire SBA sheltered venues and operations grants, which Thor says allowed the Board to kick-start the Theatre again. “We took a hit like everybody else did, but in terms of being able to restart, we’re in a good position and not as behind the 8-ball as it might have been. This has allowed us to bring in better programming that resonates with our audience better.”
This phased approach to re-opening began six months ago with the Temple’s popular Saginaw Silver Screen Series, which features the showing of classic and contemporary movies every Sunday at 2 PM. “Beginning with movies again to keep the lights on was a good way to start our re-opening,” reflects Thor, “and we’ve shifted our focus in terms of the films we’re showing to strike more of a mainstream audience, but with a focus on interesting topical material and nostalgic stuff like Star Wars that is much different watching on a 25-foot screen with state-of-the-art sound within the spacious splendor of the Temple itself.”
Upcoming films in the series include Clueless on Jan. 23rd, Malcolm X on Feb. 6th, Disney’s Aladdin on Feb. 20th, The Wizard of Oz on March 6th, Bohemian Rhapsody on March 20th, Stan & Ollie on April 3rd, and 2001: A Space Odyssey on April 16th.
The first major theatrical production is happening on March 13th at 5 PM with a performance of Theatreworks’ DOG MAN: The MUSICAL, which is a program scheduled from the previous season that had to be rescheduled, and is based off the series worldwide bestselling books from Dav Pilkey. The show is written by Kevin Del Aguila and Brad Alexander, who collaborated on the Emmy-winning series Peg + Cat on PBS.
This will be followed on March 25th with Scooby-Doo! And the Lost City of Gold, another brand-name comic story with characters translated into a full musical production for the stage. “We’re excited about featuring these plays and feel we have a good match for drawing families and a broad range of audiences,” notes Thor.
Undoubtedly, the most exciting musical performance scheduled at The Temple is the appearance of the iconic Southern California rock band AMERICA, who will be performing all their memorable hits spanning the decades from the 1970s onward in their 50th Anniversary Tour that is scheduled for April 8th at 7:30 PM.
“Over the past several years we’ve featured a lot of Tribute Bands ranging from Elton John to Queen and Boston, but this is the real deal and needless to say we are very excited about being able to feature America for this special appearance,” enthuses Thor. “This is the perfect environment in terms of space to see this group and we’re really working on bringing some other big name artists to the theatre, but the biggest problem right now is scheduling. Everything is still shook up and many artists are still deciding whether to tour or not, so as a theatre we are staying in touch with agents an promoters an adjusting to the situation.”
Finally, on May 18th The Temple has Weird Al Yankovich slated to bring his musical mayhem to the stage as part of his ‘The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour’.
Additionally, while in prior years The Temple had a tendency to go quiet in the summer months, they are working on changing that scenario so something is happening year around.
“Ultimately, our goal is run the best operation that we can and really make the theatre a place people can come together year round from all parts of Saginaw Bay and beyond,” states Thor. “We’re seeing people coming from north Oakland county because it’s easier for them to come north that it is to go down to Detroit, so we are expanding our geographic footprint and strive to be a good economic driver for the Great Lakes Bay Region.”
As part of this re-invention the public can also expect to see more live shows featuring local music in the Temple’s Leopard Lounge, which will be a welcome addition to the Downtown since the closure of the Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar and Bourbon & Co.
“We view the Leopard Lounge as a real opportunity for drawing smaller but younger crowds,” notes Thor. “Considering the whole gamut of theatre goers and people who come to concerts & shows, we feel we have room to grow in reaching 18-35 year-old crowds through more regular programming in the Lounge that Saginaw currently doesn’t have. We’ll be announcing the line-ups for February & March really soon and feel the Lounge has been an underutilized space in the theatre and is a good way to build audience relationships.”
“It’s kind of a Catch-22 in the sense that while the theatre can draw people through the downtown, having restaurants and eateries close by that people can access will improve the whole ecosystem of downtown’s cultural scene,” concludes Thor. “Having more auxiliary activities downtown creates that traction needed to make it a happening spot, but we’ll get there. It just takes some time.”
“Mainly, we’re very excited to be opening our doors again an building activity, diversity, and inclusion into our shows and programming and are eager to be a beacon for offering unique and top-notch entertainment once again.”
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)