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SCHENECTADY — Proctors will continue its ongoing restoration, renovation and modernization with a complete replacement of MainStage seats and the addition of a new hearing loop.
Over the past few years Proctors has updated its marquees, completed an ambitious restoration of its MainStage auditorium, and renovated the third floor of the original Carl Co. into the Adeline Graham Theatrical Training and Innovation Center—all of this on top of a massive 2005 expansion of the stagehouse and creation of the GE Theatre, Robb Alley and second floor administrative spaces.
Now, in response to audience surveys, Proctor will replace more than 2,500 of its existing seats with comfortable, state of the art seating.
“We are always aiming to improve the Proctors experience,” said CEO Philip Morris. “Past improvements in this regard have been cosmetic at best, replacing cushions and fabric, rather than the old seats themselves. The current ones are at the end of their natural lifespan. It’s time to do this.”
The project, from fabrication to installment, will be manned by the leading theatrical purveyor, Irwin Seating Company of Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Irwin is the prime restoration seating company in the world,” said Proctors Operations Director Dan Sheehan. “Our new seats are Cadillacs! Better foam, better cushions, modern technology—our audiences will be very pleased.”
Sheehan notes that the seats will be historically appropriate, with wooden backs and attractive charcoal grey and gold end standards facing the aisles and matching the carpet. Additionally, the seats will be wider, starting at 19 inches as opposed to the current 17. Handrails will be installed throughout the balcony, just as handrails were added to GE Theatre seating system in 2017.
The $1.7 million project will take approximately seven weeks to complete, with the hearing loop installed between removal of the existing seats and installation of the new system, which includes fixed seats in the boxes to the left and right of the MainStage.
The final planned show before renovation is a Saturday, July 21 performance by YouTube stars Daniel Howell and Phil Lester. Audiences will be introduced to the new seats with the tour launch of the Broadway musical “Anastasia,” from Tuesday, Oct. 9 to Sunday, Oct. 14.
The loop will offer much improved clarity for persons with hearing loss who wear telecoil—or T-coil—equipped hearing aids, and work as a welcome addition to the theatre’s current FM-based system, delivering a high-fidelity hearing assist signal to every section of the MainStage auditorium.
This aspect of the project will be handled by the Rochester-based Hearing Loops Unlimited, led by architect, hearing aid user and hearing loop designer Dan Bataille, who created similar systems for Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany and for The Addy theatre at Proctors.
Seed funding for the seats and hearing loop comes from a $500,000 New York State Council on the Arts grant administered through the Regional Economic Development Councils.
“The remainder,” said Relationships Director Dan Hanifin, “is being raised through donors and friends of the theatre, including individuals and corporations who understand how important this endeavor is to Proctors.”
A number of emblemed armrests from existing seats will be made into a sculpture for display at Proctors, with all original donors honored on a digital roll call. The new armrests feature a recessed plate, and these will be available for naming at $500 with a 20-year lease.
The majority of existing seats are past use and will be retired. Due to the limited number of end standards, with two needed to create a standalone chair, only a few seats will be made available for souvenir purchase; and patrons may contact the Relationships Department at Proctors for more information.
“I can’t wait to hear the response following Anastasia,” said Morris. “Proctors just gets better and better.