By Carol Vaughn —
The Island Theatre on Chincoteague is open again and is offering a robust summer schedule of movies and live performances, after its doors were closed for 16 months as result of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
The nonprofit Chincoteague Island Arts Organization owns, maintains, and manages the theater.
“We basically want to reach out and make this something that residents of the town and the region would find attractive, as well as visitors,” said Bill Borges, chairman of CIAO’s board of directors.
In addition to showing first-run movies on weekends through a longtime partnership with Flagship Cinemas, the theater is presenting live entertainment on Monday nights, called Main Stage Mondays; classic films on Wednesday nights; and family night on Thursdays, when classic children’s films suitable for family viewing are shown.
All shows and events start at 7 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is $5, with children 9 and under admitted free with an adult for the Thursday films.
“Our goal is to keep it affordable,” Borges said.
The programs are funded in part by grants from PNC Bank, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Additionally, Game Days are back in the Theatre Annex on Mondays from 1 to 4 p.m., with some changes: masks are required; bring your own personal drink or snack; game tables for card and board games will be set up at least 10 feet apart; and participants are required to sign in.
“We started in small steps. The theater was closed for 16 months,” Borges said.
“We started with Memorial Day and we started with first-run movies,” he said.
On Monday, July 19, the featured live performance is master storyteller Sheila Arnold.
“She is a world-renowned storyteller. She comes in costume and she is going to tell us the story of a woman who was married to a man who was one of the first slaves in Williamsburg,” Borges said. The man later became a free man and settled on the Eastern Shore.
This coming week, Wednesday, July 21, the classic film is “Young Frankenstein” and Thursday, July 22, the family movie is “Back to the Future.”
A singalong version of the popular family movie, “Annie,” will be shown Thursday, July 29.
A complete listing of upcoming movies and events is at chincoteagueislandarts.com/upcoming-events
Among highlights of the theater’s summer season is a concert Thursday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m., with an up-and-coming bluegrass band, Cane Mill Road, based in Western North Carolina, which has been getting a lot of attention in Nashville, according to Borges.
Chincoteague native Colton Kerchner is a member of the band. Kerchner, a Chincoteague High School graduate and son of the owner of Better. food truck, plays banjo.
“He was a child prodigy. He started picking up the banjo at age 3,” Borges said.
Tickets are $15 and are on sale at the CIAO website and at Sundial Books in Chincoteague.
The concert is presented in partnership with the Chincoteague Cultural Alliance.
The band was named Momentum Band of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2019. Their latest release, “Roots,” debuted at number six on the Billboard Bluegrass Album Charts and was streamed over 30,000 times within two weeks of its release, according to the band’s website, www.canemillroad.com
The band has performed at IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass Streetfest, MerleFest, Delaware Valley, Ogden Music Festival, Bluegrass Island, Carolina in the Fall, Silver Dollar City, FloydFest, Shakori, and hundreds of other venues over the past six years, including a nine-day tour of Argentina, where the band represented the United States in a United Nations world music festival.
Island Theatre volunteers made good use of the time while the theater was closed.
Among improvements made to the facility are new HVAC air plasma filters; new emergency, concession, and lobby lighting; new paint on walls and doors; a deep cleaning; and marquee lighting upgrades.
Additionally, the group developed a method for online program delivery during the period when the theater was closed.
Theater volunteers sought and received lots of helpful advice from Scott Chandler, who operates the Roseland Theatre in Onancock, according to Borges.
In addition to making physical improvements, the organization hired as theater manager Doug Mills, a sound and video technology expert with three decades of experience in the New York City off-Broadway theater scene who recently moved to Chincoteague.
“He has helped us improve the lighting and the sound systems, made suggestions. We bought better equipment; we replaced things that weren’t working. We made it a better theater,” Borges said.
The theater follows enhanced safety protocols, including cleaning and sanitizing after every show and encouraging non-vaccinated attendees to wear masks.
CIAO’s philosophy is to work to draw people to the downtown commercial area; to provide varied, affordable entertainment year-round for town and regional residents and visitors; and to pursue partnerships with other nonprofit organizations, including the Island Library, Island Community House, Chincoteague Cultural Alliance, the Museum of Chincoteague Island, Longtayle Studios, and the Lower Shore Performing Arts Company.
The Island Theatre is at 4074 Main St., on Chincoteague.
To donate or become a volunteer, or to learn more about the summer schedule, go to chincoteagueislandarts.com or on Facebook at ChincoteagueIAO.