Janis Martinson took over as interim executive director of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center a year ago, and she said the coronavirus pandemic forced her to learn how to run one of the region’s largest arts organizations completely on the fly.
“As somebody coming in new, you’re usually expected to do everything the way it’s always been done, and this year nothing has been the way it’s always been done. We’ve had to make up everything from scratch,” said Martinson.
Some of those new things included an outdoor drive-in movie theater during the summer, several virtual productions, and even renting out the Mahaiwe Theater to small private parties.
“We have an 8,500-square-foot theater, and if you put 10 people in here with a hospital-grade air filter, and they keep their masks on and stay six feet apart, it’s a really safe way for somebody to watch a movie that’s special to their family,” said Martinson.
Martinson said despite being unable to gather in person, the center has still created a sense of community togetherness through virtual programing like their lecture series.
“People are happy to see each other on Zoom, and also just grateful for the enrichment and a moment of escape that that provides, even in a time that’s been troubling,” said Martinson.
Martinson was appointed permanent executive director just before the new year. She said she’s now turning her attention to putting together a 2021 events schedule and continuing preparations to welcome the public back to the theater.
“Cleaning protocols, how we will move people in and out of the theater, all of that kind of work, that’s going to be stronger in our theater and in every theater,” she said.