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Improving on greatness

The Vilar Performing Arts Center will close Monday for upgrades. When it reopens in June, the theater will have new chairs that are meant to absorb and reflect sound in the same way a human body does. Also, there will be cup holders.

VILAR SUMMER LINEUP

July 3: Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers

July 5: The Wailers

July 19: Diana Krall

July 24: Trace Adkins — in support of the Vail Veterans Program

July 29: Creedence Clearwater Revisited

August 1: Grammy Award Winner Peter Frampton

August 26: The Purple Xperience: Tribute to Prince

if you want to see a production at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, then sometimes it’s fun to select the show with which you are the least familiar. If you don’t end up liking the performance, then the venue itself is so enjoyable that it will still make for a great experience.

This summer, that will be even more true as the Vilar Center will be receiving a 20-year upgrade in celebration of its upcoming 20-year anniversary.

Facilities manager Dean Davis says a trip to the Vilar Center will be worthwhile this year simply to see the upgrades. Spoiler alert: There will be cup holders.

“We decided to work with Pfeiffer and Partners, the original architectural firm, in order to keep the continuity of their design vision,” Davis said. “We’re sprucing it up — replacing the floor in the auditorium and completely replacing the seats.”

HIGH-END SEATING

With firmer cushions, the seats should be more comfortable for longer shows. If you get that feeling that you’ve melded into your chair halfway through the performance, then that’s a good thing. From a sound perspective, your own body and the chair its seated in should not be much different anyway.

“One of the characteristics of a good theater seat is that it responds acoustically in a way that is similar to the human body, so the seat reflects and absorbs about as much sound as your body does,” Davis said. “That allows for a more consistent audio experience for the listener; as more people come into the auditorium it doesn’t change the acoustics of the room all that much, whereas, with some other types of seating, there can be a very large difference between what it sounds like with nobody in the place, versus what it sounds like with a full house.”

The chairs that are currently in the theater are nice, but not exactly high end, Davis said.

“It was a pretty standard grade chair,” he said.

It’s a pricey proposition, swapping out the current chairs with those that respond to sound like a warm body, and finding them wasn’t easy.

“That seat, for whatever reason, has become less common on the market,” Davis said. “It might be that the manufacturing does cost more, so it’s only the higher-end companies that still offer it.”

A final observation that factored into the decision to replace the seats may have come to Vilar Center executives as they were enjoying a cold beverage.

“It may seem like a small thing,” Davis said, “but we receive a very positive and enthusiastic response when people find out that there will be cup holders.”

‘MORE CONSISTENT VENUE’

Another major change will be the lighting.

A configuration called raceway electric will be over the stage permanently when the theater reopens in June.

“With this electric we are able to hang the same amount of lighting equipment from one over-stage position to another,” said Vilar Center Technical Director Erik Brown. “This will allow us to increase the amount of lighting over the stage as well as provide a more consistent venue for traveling productions to utilize.”

LED lighting has come a long way in recent years, creating a brighter aesthetic with less energy. Vilar Performing Arts Center technicians recently retooled the lighting in the lobby areas, switching to LED, and when the center closes for improvements on Monday, workers will also begin the process of switching the theater’s isle lights to LED.

“The LED isle lights will be a little bit brighter and provide much better lighting on the steps, which is something we were very concerned about,” Davis said. “We have had some trouble with people tripping in the past.”

RAISING THE PROFILE

The person who will enjoy the Vilar Center changes the most is he or she who visits the theater often; indeed the casual attendee may not even notice the upgrades. Vilar Center regulars have come to appreciate the theater for its hidden gem qualities. If you’re one of those regulars, then enjoying Vilar Center shows while other Beaver Creek guests are unaware of its existence, you may soon find yourself thinking back to a bygone era, wondering why more shows didn’t sell out the moment tickets became available.

In short, Vilar Center staffers are looking to up the theater’s profile in its 20th year of operation.

“As we approach an important milestone in our calendar, we look forward to making strides in attracting new theatergoers as well as enhancing the overall audience experience,” said Executive Director Duncan JB Horner. “This starts with our facility upgrades.”

Horner said the Vilar Center hopes to work with Beaver Creek to address visibility issues.

“About half of destination guests don’t even know a theater exists beneath the ice rink,” Horner said. “It’s really exciting times for us and we look forward to using this opportunity to press the reset button and help refuel interest in our great venue.”

The first chance most guests will have to see the improvements will be July 3 when Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers come to town. Visit vilarpac.org for more information.


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