By Aleza Freeman
The curtain has risen, and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts is back in action following a long, COVID-caused hiatus. That means its President and CEO, Myron Marton, is a very busy man.
Not to say he wasn’t just as busy during the pandemic pause. “I found myself on multiple Zoom calls every week with the leading performing art centers coast to coast, a call with the Vegas venues,” he recalls. “Everyone from Cirque du Soleil to Las Vegas events coming together to talk about…what it was going to take to reopen.”
DAVID magazine recently caught up with Martin to learn more about the Smith Center’s shutdown experience as well as what to expect from this world-class performing arts center now that the show has gone on.
When live entertainment went dark in March 2020, where did you and your team concentrate your energy?
That’s a tricky question because the Smith Center is the home to world-class live performance...not Zoom performance. The Smith Center as we knew it stopped on that day and we had to find new ways to stay engaged with our audiences.
Yes, we did some online performances and some workshops and master classes online, but it was clear from Day One that nothing ever has or will take the place of live performance.
Other than virtual programs, how else has the Smith Center adapted and grown due to the pandemic?
We invested in new technology so people could have their tickets on their phone. We did the same thing, by the way, with our bars. We went to a cashless system. We knew that was going to take a little bit of a learning curve, but people have adapted very quickly.
During that shutdown, thanks to things we learned from people and peers around the world, we then invested in things like enhanced filtration in our HVAC systems. We all learned what a MERV 13 rating was for an air filter. We learned that there were benefits in using UV light inside the air ducts.
The Smith Center was always known as a place with a pristine environment. Our entire team does an amazing job of keeping this place looking perfect, all the time. Now, not only are we clean, but we’re totally disinfected…cleaner than clean. Sparkling.
Did the pandemic play any role in shaping your current season?
In the beginning of the pandemic, we had to cancel nearly 500 performances. So, the shows we are doing now are the shows that were previously scheduled for a year or two ago and postponed, and now we’re finally getting to present these talented people. We just completed our second Broadway show since reopening.
Do audiences mind your new COVID protocols?
The vast majority are thrilled with our COVID protocols. We ask people to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination. We ask them to wear a mask.
For our Broadway shows, we do a pre-show audio announcement in the house just to ask people to get settled in and turn off their phones, but we also thank everyone for making this a safe place by continuing to wear their masks throughout the performance. When that announcement is made, in every single performance, the audience applauds.
How about the performers?
Back in action, happy to be back, starting with performances in Myron’s [formerly Myron’s Cabaret Jazz]. I think we did 12 shows in there before we did our first one in Reynolds Hall. All of those first performers were local favorites, people who live here in Las Vegas: Clint Holmes, Frankie Moreno, Lon Bronson Band, David Perrico and his pop strings…and on and on.
How has the neighborhood around the Smith Center grown since the shut down?
Our average guest has been away for a year, a year-and-a-half or more. When they left, we had our neighbor to the southwest, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and on our block, the Discovery Children’s Museum, but everything else was dirt.
Now we have new apartment buildings [Auric Symphony Park] that are beautiful, and people are moving in and it’s really changing the neighborhood. The next thing that’s in the works, we’re anticipating some new restaurants…so, in the future, when people come to the Smith Center, they will have some choices right here on our block for pre- and post-show food or drinks.
What are you most excited about this season?
If the question were phrased slightly differently, and you asked, “Who am I looking forward to seeing the most?” I would say our audiences. We miss our local friends and neighbors who were regulars coming to the Smith Center and that’s the part I am looking forward to the most.