If you attended a performance at Weathervane Playhouse during the latter part of the last season, you likely noticed several upgrades—a new lobby (with double the space), new gift shop, new box office and new restrooms, as well as a new administrative wing. These changes are all part of a campaign that Executive Director John Hedges says was geared toward improving the theater’s public spaces. The final phases of the campaign—an overhaul of the auditorium that will include new paint, new seats and acoustical panels—will be completed just in time for the theater’s 75th season to kick off Sept. 10 with the production “Putting it Together.”
Weathervane’s current building was constructed in 1970, and while additions were made to the back of the building during the 1999-2000 capital campaign to update production capabilities, this is the first time the public space has been improved. Hedges describes the work as a “complete facelift to all the stuff the public views, to enhance the experience and address patron comfort.” The new lobby is equipped with a flat-screen TV and wireless internet access, which Hedges hopes will encourage the public to view Weathervane as more than just a place to see live theater.
“We want to create the kind of environment that’s a third space in people’s lives,” he says. “Our doors are literally and figuratively open to the public.”
In August, the theater hosted a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, a reception for Merriman Valley businesses and a public open house. In the coming months, it will serve as the site for Weathervane’s major fundraising event as well as a series of receptions for local businesses, the arts community and young professionals. And next summer Hedges hopes to bring back a series of free outdoor concerts on the front patio, attracting a broader cross-section of people from the community to the organization.
Looking forward, Hedges says the 75th season features a theme of bringing people together and setting the stage for the next 75 years. “Fundamentally, theater at its best is a place where people can have a shared sense of their own humanity,” he explains. “It’s not dissimilar from a church in that regard.”
Although Weathervane has a deep-rooted history in the Akron area, and is fairing well in current economic times with last year’s attendance up 12 percent from the previous year, Hedges is careful not to fall into the trap of assuming Weathervane will always be around. Instead, he continually asks the question, “Do we matter?”
Hedges looks for new ways to grow the organization with a concentrated focus on finding new ways to make the theater matter to the people in Akron.
“We’re not in the theater business as much as the experience business,” he explains. “We’re expanding our view of the business beyond putting on plays. An unseen portion of that is education. We’re addressing our community’s need to augment exposure to creative art. That’s deeply and fundamentally embedded in our mission.”
For a 2009-10 performance schedule or to obtain information about educational opportunities at the theater, visit