Englert Theatre reopens to the public, ‘excited’ for the path forward (VIDEO)

Leo Kottke

Friday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. -- Englert Theatre, $33.50-53.50

Andre Perry’s farewell marquee. — Jason Smith / Little Village

After a long hiatus, the Englert Theatre is once again opening its doors to the public, albeit with strict COVID-19 safety procedures in place. Interim Executive Director John Schickendanz and Board President Carl Brown sat down with Little Village recently to discuss the theater’s current changes and future direction.

It’s been a difficult 16 months for the Englert and the community since the theater shut down its spring 2020 Mission Creek Festival, the first clue to some eastern Iowans that the pandemic was a serious risk and rough times were ahead. Over the course of those months, the Englert experimented with producing virtual events, including Ghost Creek (a film under the Mission Creek banner) and weekly Stages performances. As spring and vaccination rolled around this year, a series of outdoor events took to stages across the city, pairing writers and musicians to bring a taste of Mission Creek to the community.

Now, they’re ready to welcome the community back home.

With Schickendanz eagerly jumping into his new role, the theater opened for self-guided tours of its recent renovations, in conjunction with its Strengthen • Grow • Evolve partner FilmScene, which is offered tours of the changes to its Ped Mall location as well.

This Friday, in the first concert since pre-COVID, acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke will grace the stage. Tickets are $33.50-53.50.

The Englert has a full slate of events scheduled into next fall, including many performances from last year that have had to be rescheduled multiple times as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic played out. They run the gamut from the ridiculous (a cavalcade of comedy tours) to the sublime (including the posthumous premiere of John Rapson‘s Esteban and the Children of the Sun in October).

Outgoing Executive Director Andre Perry, who also served as lead curator over his 11 years at the Englert, committed when he left to assisting with the finalization of fall and spring programming. The search for a replacement for Perry will include adding a new curatorial role to the Englert staff. Splitting the programming director role off into a new position has been in the works for a while; the board anticipates hiring for that position in the near future. But they’re holding off on the search for a new executive director until 2022.

“We haven’t really given ourselves a specific moment in 2022 … We’ve intentionally left that a bit open,” Brown said. “One of the things we want to make sure is that John as the interim e.d. is not there with restrictions, as a placeholder. … John has some really great ideas that as interim e.d. we’re excited to see him work on and implement.”

Schickendanz, who has served as the Englert’s Marketing Director since July of 2019, has played a crucial role in the theater’s Strengthen • Grow • Evolve collaboration and “Greatest Small City for the Arts” initiative. He grew up in a small town in Southeast Iowa, and said he truly valued the benefits that the Englert provided. “We would come here and think of this community as ‘the big city,'” he said. He looks forward to growing the Englert’s impact in the surrounding area.

“I’m just excited about the road that lays before us,” Schickendanz said.

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