Morgantown’s Metropolitan Theatre is temporarily trading tap shoes and tambourines for textbooks.
An agreement between the theater and WVU will see the venue used as a classroom for the upcoming semester as the university looks for spaces large enough to hold classes and observe social distancing guidelines.
Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli said WVU will pay $35,000 for the use of the theater. That money will also cover some of the cost to provide nightly cleaning in line with what the university is doing in its classrooms.
Vincent Kitch, the city’s director of arts and cultural development, said between 500 and 600 students will be shuffling through the theater daily. Those classes range in size from 75 students to more than 200 students.
“We’re limiting all seating in the Met to 50% capacity for social distancing,” Kitch said. “They’re setting up protocols for scanning students in and out and assigning them seats so that they’ll always be able to track social interactions should there be any type of issue, they’ll know who was sitting where and who they were sitting next to.”
Even at half-capacity, the theater can hold up to 450 people.
Kitch said the theater will remain available for evening use. He explained that there are currently a handful of events scheduled in November.
“We have negotiated that there will be a few days where we have to say to the university, with a 30-day notice, that we would like to have the venue available for a concert or public performances,” Kitch said.
The revenue generated by the agreement with WVU will offset anticipated losses in theater and property rental due to COVID-19, as will the addition of alcohol sales to theater concessions.
Morgantown City Council approved a budget of $290,810 for the theater during its most recent regular meeting.
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