by Brett Smock,
Producing Artistic Director, The REV Theatre Company
As the REV feverishly prepares to reopen the doors of the historic Merry Go Round Playhouse on June 30, these words have framed the majority of the organization’s thinking and planning, and now serve as the theme of the upcoming 2021 season. Reunion reflects the excitement and determination to reunite with audiences and artists. Recovery for the arts will be a lengthy and strategic journey. Resilience because in 63 years, The REV has not closed its doors once – and this word captures the optimism and strength of the board and staff as the company embraces the new post-pandemic world. The REV is dedicated to the community, to the arts industry, to racial and social equality, to inclusivity and to the bright future ahead. It is serious about getting theatre people back to work and audiences back in its seats.
Throughout its 63-year history, the REV has served as a cultural anchor in Auburn and the Finger Lakes Region. It began as the Auburn Children’s Theatre, morphed to Auburn Civic Theatre, became Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, then expanded by virtue of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. Two years ago, after much struggle with a fractured identity, competing mission statements and ongoing public confusion, the brand was reimagined to become The REV Theatre Company – a testament to our ongoing evolution, the revolve of the original carousel building (now the Merry Go Round Playhouse), and reverence to the incredible legacy and the strategic revitalization of the organization’s art and culture.
Today, the REV is a $5M arts organization serving over 60,000 patrons annually during the summer season, and over 125,000 students each academic year through comprehensive arts education initiatives. Comprised of two principal divisions, Rev Musicals and Rev Education, the REV programs in three venues in Auburn, employ more than 200 artists each year, contribute over $6M of annual economic vitality to Auburn and are routinely recognized for artistry and execution.
The 2021 season will feature three incredible musicals: 42nd Street, Footloose and Almost Heaven: The Songs of John Denver. “This season is hand-picked to celebrate the return of live theatre and to bring sheer joy and entertainment to the Finger Lakes,” says President of the Board Roberta Williams. “42nd Street is the ultimate Broadway musical and the perfect vehicle for audiences to fall in love with the theatre all over again. Footloose will definitely make you want to dance in the aisles of the Playhouse. And who doesn’t love a good John Denver tune? There is something for everyone, and we are so excited to reopen the doors of our beloved Merry Go Round Playhouse and reunite with our audiences.” Sister Act and Ragtime, both originally slated for the 2021 season, will appear in next year’s lineup. The REV’s new-works program, The PiTCH, will remain dormant this year, but will return with five new musicals next year.
The REV is fiercely committed to a safe and healthy environment for everyone – employees and audience alike. The organization has invested in extensive improvements to its flagship venue, the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, such as AtmosAir duct purification and UVC filtration fans, which kill 99.99% of airborne pathogens, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Electrostatic cleaning, social distancing, widespread sanitization, and no less than bi-weekly testing for every employee will also be implemented. The REV will promote a fully vaccinated workplace as well as a comprehensive health and safety plan vetted by NY Department of Labor, the Cayuga County Department of Health and the organization’s theatrical unions. “We’re proud to have put over 100 theatre professionals to work over the last year, without a single case of infection or transmission,” says Director of Production and Operations Michael Iannelli. “To that end, we’re committed to providing continuous, proactive updates to our plan as additional protocols are released.”
Following NYS guidelines, patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result in order to see a show at the Playhouse this season.
Tickets are now on sale for this exciting season. “We recognize that we will only have so many seats left to sell once our subscribers and existing single ticket holders are accommodated and reseated,” says Director of Audience Services Jessica Alexander. “We want to perform for as many people as possible and encourage our loyal patrons – and anyone who wants the joy of live theatre back in their life – to buy tickets now. They’re selling fast!” Tickets are on sale by phone at 1-800-457-8897.
The REV’s Musical Theatre Intensive training program for high school students will return this summer, as well as the Summer Outreach Tour, described by The REV’s Director of Education Lisa Chase as “one of the most enduring components of the company’s 63-year legacy. The tour ensures that families throughout New York State have free access to live theatre.” The tour schedule will be available on The REV website in the coming weeks.
In 2021, audiences can expect the same gold standard of theatrical excellence they are used to – in a safe, comfortable and joyous atmosphere. This past year has been a potent reminder to appreciate this new world with new eyes and hearts. On June 30, the Merry Go Round Playhouse will once again be filled with the sound of music, tapping feet, laughter and applause. Exactly as it should be.
Reunion. Recovery. Resilience.