In response to the recent COVID 19 outbreak, and out of deep care and concern for our wonderful community, the Smith has made the difficult decision to close the theater effective Monday, March 15 through at least Sunday, April 12. All scheduled programming during that time is postponed, including Friday’s Town Pants concert. Please take care. We’ll miss you.

The Smith Blog

SMITH HISTORY BLOG: Take a Seat

by Chris Woodworth

Finger Lakes Times photograph of old seats with ripped seat covers and stuffing revealed, dated January 18, 1982. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Finger Lakes Times photograph of old seats with ripped seat covers and stuffing revealed, dated January 18, 1982. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

On our weekly history tours we often encourage attendees to look up and marvel at the period lighting fixtures, elaborate carvings, and paint detail. This week we are encouraging you to look down, specifically at where you sit in The Smith! Have you ever wondered why the lush burgundy velvet seats are in such good shape? Have you taken a peek at the end caps on each row, complete with their Art Deco design and aisle lights? How can these seats be new and old all at once? The answer, as with all improvements and restorations at The Smith is twofold: fundraising and volunteers!

Finger Lakes Times photograph of ground floor orchestra-level seating area cleared of seats during seat refurbishment project, dated February 9, 1983. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Finger Lakes Times photograph of ground floor-level seating area cleared of seats during seat refurbishment project, dated February 9, 1983. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

In the early 1980s, the upholstery on the theatre seats was a grayish green color and the seats had seen much better days. Former Smith Opera House Manager, Steve Hastings (one of the Fearless Five who saved the theatre), preserved a series of articles and photographs from this renovation and restoration project and has included them in his scrapbook. Rather than outfit the theatre with brand new seats, it was decided that the existing seats would be refurbished. This marked one of the first major steps in the theatre’s Master Plan, following the creation of the Finger Lakes Regional Arts Council. Money for this refurbishment was raised through the Buy-a-Seat, Save a Theater campaign. Initially, there was only enough money to restore 500 seats so the ground floor orchestra level was cleared and the chairs sent to a company in Michigan. The Finger Lakes Times reported, “Wooden arm rests will be stripped, sanded, stained and lacquered. The seat and back cushions will be restuffed with foam, and covered with a flame and stain retardant nylon weave material. A color scheme of burgundy material with metallic gold end panels was selected to retain the antique atmosphere of the auditorium” (“Seats 1st Step”). While the seats were gone, the orchestra level was deep cleaned and seating was restricted to the balcony. Volunteers stepped up to assist with the deep cleaning.

The reviews were excellent when the new seats were revealed. One patron attending a special reception to celebrate the reveal of the new seats, exclaimed, “Why they’re just like you see in a New York City theater” (Jones). The next time you take a seat at The Smith, look down and marvel at the time, treasure, and talent invested in the refurbishment of our gorgeous auditorium!

Works Cited

“In deplorable condition.” Photograph. Finger Lakes Times, 18 Jan. 1982. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Jones, Jean. “All seats good at theater.” Finger Lakes Times, 28 Feb. 1983. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

“Seats 1st step in theater’s master plan.” Finger Lakes Times, 6 Jan. 1983. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

“Standing room only—in some spots.” Photograph. Finger Lakes Times, 9 Feb. 1983. Included in Personal Scrapbook of Steve Hastings.

Would you like to be involved in creating Celebrate The Smith: An Immersive Theatre Event, The Smith’s 125th Birthday Celebration? We need actors, directors, writers, stage managers, and hosts. No theatre experience needed!

Prefer to join us as an audience member? Click here for tickets and information.