by Mark Rummel
There are nearly two dozen reasons to attend Broadway presentations and Performing Arts programs close to home at The Whiting and the Capitol Theatre. That is why they are known as Flint and Genesee County’s premier performance venues.
No matter what musical and entertainment styles you prefer, The Whiting and the Capitol Theatre have year-round schedules of live events, says The Whiting’s Interim Executive Director Amy Fugate. “We want to sustain, promote and expand what we do here,” she says.
“Many people don’t realize we are here. We offer a wide variety of wonderful performances for Flint and Genesee County and beyond,” Fugate says.
To do that, the staff uses traditional methods such as posters, ads in local media plus mailings — but increasingly, social media is being used to spread the word about upcoming performances.
“Social media contacts are gigantic,” says Development Director Shannon Leach. “We create posts to invite people to attend, as well as to remind people about dates and performance times for people who have already purchased tickets.”
“We’re here to present a wonderful variety of performances year-round,” notes Whiting Technical Director Chris Everson. “But not everyone in Flint and Genesee County are friends with us on Facebook, Instagram and more.” Everson recommends Whiting and Capitol friends check “Attending” on social media posts for the venues. That way, friends can also learn about those upcoming shows.
“We keep trying to find ways of getting information to people, to spread our community outreach,” notes Rentals & Artists Services Coordinator Ella McAndrew. She gets much of her own social information from streaming sources, making her more difficult to reach through traditional broadcast and print local media.
It’s a staff-wide, year-round effort to find great shows and artists, and then bring them to the proper local stage, the staff agrees. “In deciding what types of programs to offer, we scout for possible shows,” Fugate says. “In the end, the director decides what the season will be.” For instance, there are nearly two dozen different performances ongoing in this 2019 – 2020 season, with many being offered on multiple dates. Season schedules are finalized each fall for the next year.
The marketing area for both venues is primarily Mid-Michigan, as The Whiting and the Capitol Theatre are regional performance places. A prime focus is northern Oakland County, which is just a few miles south of the local stages.
“The broader area we can draw from, the more people can enjoy our shows,” Everson notes. “We have very easy access, since both The Whiting and the Capitol are just off I-475 in Flint. Plus, both theatres offer many advantages, such as lower ticket prices than larger performing places in big cities.”
“And, we offer free parking plus valet parking,” McAndrew says. “We are close-in to Downtown Flint events, with many restaurants nearby plus other things to do.”
The Whiting and the Capitol Theatre might seem like competitive venues, but each has unique features and offer different shows, Executive Director Fugate explains. “Both theatres draw people into the city. We are proud to be helping in the rebirth of Downtown Flint.”
After the Capitol’s $34 million renovation project was completed in 2017, it was decided both places should work together. They complement each other, Leach says, and work well together to bring a variety of performances to the area.
For Broadway performances or musical groups with large casts, The Whiting has the perfect infrastructure. Its huge stage, multiple dressing rooms, plus versatile lighting, sound and equipment systems allow all 2,043 seats to provide great sight lines. It is located at 1241 E. Kearsley Street. Details are at TheWhiting.com.
The James H. Whiting Auditorium in the Flint Cultural Center was officially opened in 1967 and is home to the Flint Symphony Orchestra, performances by the Flint Youth Theatre and many more events. Its major upgrade in 1999 restored its former glory as a graceful European-style theatre — and brought it up to today’s technical standards, to improve the performance experience for all attending, Fugate says.
Just a few blocks away, the Capitol Theatre shines brightly in Downtown Flint when showing movies, live concerts and smaller stage shows, Fugate says. While it was built as a vaudeville and movie palace that opened in 1928, the Capitol has hosted memorable rock music shows over the years. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985, the Capitol had closed in 1990. That massive 2017 revitalization and reopening brought a new spirit — and new performances — to the 1,600-seat theatre, located at 140 E. 2nd Street. Details are at CapitolTheatreFint.com.
“The Capitol Theatre is an architectural gem, a true symbol of the resilient spirit of Flint,” staff members note. “It is a leading example of the success of our Hope For Flint,” they say.
Both theatres operate from three types of funding — actual ticket sales, foundation endowments and one-time grants plus continuing income from the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage funds. That millage allows Genesee County residents to receive discounts of 30% to 50% on season subscriptions, plus other benefits.
“Our gratitude to voters is genuine,” Fugate says. “We appreciate our overwhelming community support. The public wants to keep arts strong here. We try to accomplish that every time the curtain goes up.”