YOUNGSTOWN Oakland improves theater seating

The facility has been a work-in-progress for the past two years.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Theatergoers will notice the changes at the Oakland Center for the Arts the moment they sit down for its opening production of "The Romeo and Juliet War" on Oct. 11.
As part of its evolving series of renovations and improvements, the Oakland has replaced the folding chairs and their thin cushions with refurbished theater-type seats.
The switch to the rows of ochre-colored, thick-cushioned chairs should make for a more comfortable experience.
According to Sandy Vansuch, artistic director for the Oakland, the work was done by a company in Columbus that specializes in making and installing refurbished seats.
The money to make these changes was obtained through grants from the Youngstown Foundation and the Beecher Foundation. The total cost of the project is $15,000.
Volunteers at the nonprofit center, which is also the home for the Flick Clique and a gallery, made a new series of platforms in preparation of the seats' installment.
"We were working with stuff that is pieced together by the kindness of friends who fix things," said Vansuch.
"We feel that the city deserves state-of-the-art stuff as well. As time goes on, production values match what we've done artistically."
Ongoing project: The Oakland moved to its present downtown location, 220 W. Boardman St., in September 1999. Vansuch immediately warned patrons to be patient, that its existence was a work-in-progress.
"When we first did the renovation, we wanted to do all this the first go-round but we couldn't get the money together. So, we did the bare minimum just to get in. In phase two, we've received close to $70,000 with the help of foundations and the city of Youngstown."
She credits the Oakland's board members for their ability to write and obtain grants for past, present and future improvements.
"It's tough to get people to volunteer on boards, a real working board," she said, "not something just to put in your credits. It's only going to work with dedicated people. None of us would survive if we didn't have them."
What lies ahead: The next phase for the Oakland will include improvements to the lighting and sound systems plus, if possible, a bathroom for the dressing room area.
Vansuch is in the process of obtaining bids on the project as part of a $50,000 grant from the city's Community Development Agency.
The Oakland Center for the Arts has scheduled five regular productions for its upcoming season. There will also be a holiday-themed show and at least two children's productions in the spring.
The Flick Clique plans to show one film a month, with the hope of putting together a film festival. The critically acclaimed "The Anniversary Party" starring Alan Cummings and Jennifer Jason-Leigh will be shown Sunday.

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