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ETSU arts center promises bigger, better performances

Jonathan Roberts • Aug 26, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Director Anita DeAngelis already has big plans for the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts first performing arts season, likely to open in September 2020.

“Because of the technical capabilities of the Martin Center stage, we’re going to be able to host things we’ve never had in Johnson City before, or have struggled to present,” DeAngelis said.

The arts center has an advisory committee made up of East Tennessee State University faculty and staff, representatives from the surrounding communities and from Johnson City to help decide which performers or acts they decide to bring.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to put together a reasonable package of new events, as well as the events we’ve already been hosting,” she said. “It’s an exciting time right now to think about where we are with that whole process.”

DeAngelis also added that they’re coordinating with other theaters in the region to help keep costs low and potentially attract larger performances.

“One-off shows are always more expensive, but because of where we’re located a reasonable distance to Nashville, sometimes we’re able to book those a little bit more readily and avoid those extra fees,” she said. “It helps a lot.”

Another thing DeAngelis and the center are looking forward to: accessibility.

Previously, ETSU and the Mary B. Martin School for the Arts struggled to present events that required disability access or other accommodations. When the new center opens, those concerns will mostly disappear.

“Our ability to provide service to our patrons will also change significantly,” DeAngelis said. “The mobility concerns are definitely there, but we’ll also have hearing assist devices in all three of our performance spaces.

“I think the patron experiences, in general, will be much improved and I think the artists we bring in will be different.”

DeAngelis also says they might “potentially” have some sensory-friendly performances, and that she sees them doing more things like that as well.

The new center will likely be fully completed and handed over to the arts school by the end of the 2019-20 academic year. The performance schedule will likely be finalized by March or April.

“I think our first years, people are going to be really excited to see the changes coming to Johnson City,” DeAngelis said.

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