➼ WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but the only thing we’ve missed more than dining out is live music and theater. So it’s exciting to see that the city has budgeted major upgrades to the Metropolitan Theatre and Ruby Amphi- theater in its 2021–26 Capital Improvement Plan—upgrades that are going to make down- town a frequent entertainment destination. To longtime residents, it may seem like just a few years since the fully restored 1924 Metropolitan Theatre started hosting shows again. But it was actually over a decade ago, and the wear and tear has begun to show. So the city is planning several years of invest- ments before the theater’s centennial in 2024. “They have 30,000 to 40,000 people coming through the Met most years,” says Vincent Kitch, the city’s director of Arts and Cultural Development. “Some of the seats are falling apart. And of course, when you replace the seats, that’s the time to do the carpet.” Both are to be replaced over the coming year. How about a more spectacular marquee to better project the theater’s glamor? The marquee and digital displays are budgeted for replacement in 2023–24. “The Met plays a huge role in ongoing downtown development, in the nightlife,” Kitch says. “It should have Live Theater is Back And downtown is your new go-to destination.
a stronger presence, and this will help us do that.” That, along with roof and HVAC replacements and the new seats and carpet will make the theater the jewel of downtown by the time of its centennial. Meanwhile, the major Ruby Amphitheater overhaul we couldn’t wait to see finished ended up being completed quietly during the pandemic. That means the new canopy for the seating, expansions to the stage and seating areas, and renovations at the depot are all yet to be enjoyed. But important refinements are still to come: a reserved seating area will be created over the coming year, and sound and lighting functions will be improved. “We don’t have the capability to hang sound or lighting equipment yet—that will let us do events in a more professional way,” Kitch says.
And in 2022–23, a major comfort boost: seat backs. The park now seats 1,200 in the bowl and has a full capacity of 2,800, so it’s easily pos- sible to hold events for several hundred people while observing distancing, as necessary. And programming is starting to ramp up, Kitch says. Summer events under discussion include local music and theater ensembles, touring concerts, comedy nights, and Shakespeare in the Park. The city’s 4th of July celebration may return to the riverfront, too. “We’re excited that things are starting to happen both at the Met and at the amphitheater,” Kitch says. “Everyone is champing at the bit to get into a venue and have performances. We’re going to do everything we can to support that.” written by pam kasey
18 MORGANTOWN SUMMER 2021
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