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Road To Reopening: Red Mountain Theatre Talks Their New 60,000 Square Foot Post-Pandemic Arts Campus

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The theatre is also a co-producer on various Broadway productions including Moulin Rouge.

BroadwayWorld is checking in with theaters around the country as they prepare to reopen this summer. Next in our series we check in with Red Mountain Theatre Executive Director Keith Cromwell.

Road To Reopening: Red Mountain Theatre Talks Their New 60,000 Square Foot Post-Pandemic Arts Campus Keith Cromwell brought 25 years of global directing and performing experience to Birmingham when he took the helm of Red Mountain Theatre as Executive Director in 2003. Under his leadership, the organization experienced year over year growth, becoming one of the top ten arts organizations in the state. In 2021, he led RMT to the opening of a decades-long dream and cultural asset - a 60,000 square foot Arts Campus in the burgeoning Parkside District. Beyond Birmingham, Keith has put RMT on the national artistic map with, among other things, its participation on Broadway as producers of The Bridges of Madison County, Once On This Island (2018 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival), and Moulin Rouge.

What has your theater's staff been up to over the past year?

Of course, the past year has been challenging for everyone, but we are lucky to have a team at Red Mountain Theatre that was able to adapt to any challenges the pandemic presented. Through a ton of hard work, a unified vision, and a capital campaign led by Kathryn and Raymond Harbert, we were able to complete work on our new Arts Campus in Downtown Birmingham.

Featuring more than 60,000 square feet of space, the Arts Campus provides the opportunity to house all of its operations under one roof after more than 40 years of multiple locations housing different divisions, such as set design and costume storage.

The one-stop-shop campus features two full theaters, several rehearsal spaces, administrative offices, a scene shop, a costume shop, a piano bar, a recording studio, makeup and wig room, production offices, back-of-the-house facilities and even some storage for sets, costumes and more.

Our grand opening was on June 16, and we are hosting shows regularly, and have just recently announced our 2021-2022 season that will kick off with our Holiday Spectacular in December. We'll also have several shows prior to that, including our Human Rights New Works Festival, The Addams Family Young @ Part, and coming up - performances from Broadway veteran Jason Robert Brown and several other improv and concert showcases in our Discovery Theatre.

Road To Reopening: Red Mountain Theatre Talks Their New 60,000 Square Foot Post-Pandemic Arts Campus
The theatre's new arts campus, featuring two performance venues.

How has the pandemic most affected your company?

I think the challenges brought on by the pandemic motivated all of us at Red Mountain Theatre to re-invest in our mission. The old theatre adage of 'the show must go on' became all too real in 2020. Luckily, we were able to come through the pandemic with a renewed sense of belief in our core values of enriching, educating, and engaging through theatre.

Have you done any streaming theatre/events?

During the holiday season, we put out a musical number each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Because we were closing one of our venues, we created a farewell concert that was distributed digitally. We also offered patrons an on-demand version of Tony Award® Winner Jefferson Mays' performance in Charles Dickens' beloved holiday classic "A Christmas Carol."

What have the audience reactions to any digital performances been like?

These will never be the same as live, in-person performances. While audiences enjoyed the digital offerings, they still missed joining us in person.

What have you got coming up you're most excited to share with audiences?

As mentioned, we have just announced our 2021-2022 season, that along with our Holiday Spectacular, will include Cinderella, Once, Once on this Island and Kinky Boots. We also have Tony award winning composer and Broadway veteran Jason Robert Brown coming in for performances on Sept. 17-18.

How did your venue come up with a reopening plan/covid safety plan?

We have a fantastic team at Red Mountain Theatre, and we pulled all our intellectual resources to make sure we had the right plan in place to allow us to keep everyone safe while continuing to promote our mission and vision. With the University of Alabama at Birmingham being a partner organization and Dr. Michael Saag, Director of Infectious Diseases Division, University of Alabama at Birmingham, being a supporter, we leaned on him a lot to help in navigating the changing landscape of Covid-19. Additionally, we offered small, safe tours of our new Arts Campus and recently completed production of our Roaring 20s Immersive Experience, which saw small audience groups move throughout our facility and experience multiple performances along the way.

Will there be any adjustments in capacity or seating/vaccination or testing requirements?

We are closely monitoring the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in our home state of Alabama, as well as recommendations and guidance from the CDC and state legislators. We have in the past adjusted capacity to give more distance and will do so again if that is the case.

Will there be any changes to the on-stage aspects of the shows in response to the pandemic?

We continue to monitor guidance from the medical community and revise policies as needed. Like all theatres, we are working hard to keep everyone safe while also delivering the highest quality artistic experiences.

Were there any COVID considerations in programming the upcoming season - selecting titles, etc?

Not in selecting titles. We planned these far in advance and had to make decisions based on the things we knew at the time.

Will there be any changes to your ticketing policies, flexible rescheduling, etc?

We always have the patron's best interests at heart and that won't change. Our policies are patron centric. So should we change a performance or move something around, we'll always make sure they are taken care of.

When and what are you re-opening with?

We celebrated the grand opening of our Arts Campus on June 16 and have already hosted several shows, including a concert series, a youth edition of The Wizard of Oz and a preview of our Human Rights New Works Festival. We still consider this a soft opening. Our 2021-22 Season kicks off with a Concert from Jason Robert Brown, an honorary board member. Jason has been with us many times and we look forward to him starting us off with a bang. Our audience can expect a few fun surprise guests to join him.

We're looking forward to continuing to welcome audiences into our brand-new location.

What are you most looking forward to?

One of the most important things to us at Red Mountain Theatre is education, and our Arts Campus represents an incredible opportunity to bolster those efforts. We have a permanent home now for kids in our community that want to learn the ins and outs of theatre, and that is a real thrill for us.

How have you remained engaged with your audience about the return to the stage?

Because we were in the middle of a capital campaign, we have had to stay pretty engaged with our patrons. Our Broadway Bash (fundraising event) was done totally virtual with some live and pre-recorded parts. We also developed outdoor events where we were able to stay connected. Smaller, safe tours through our magnificent new facility have been key to staying connected as enthusiasm mount to being together in our new home.

How can audience members learn more and stay up to date?

They can head to RedMountainTheatre.org.


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