YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – When Ballet Western Reserve performs “The Nutcracker” this weekend, the dancers will be accompanied by something they’ve never experienced before. Something that hasn’t been used at Powers Auditorium in 20 years.
Wednesday night, before the dress rehearsal of “The Nutcracker,” musicians with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra warmed up in the orchestra pit at Powers Auditorium. It’s the first time the pit has been used in 20 years.
“I knew that there was a pit in Powers. It hasn’t been open for so many years,” said Katie Merrill, executive director of Ballet Western Reserve.
Previously, the orchestra accompanied the ballet on stage.
“It’s kind of a site obstruction and a dancer obstruction too,” Merrill said.
So, Merrill convinced the operators of Powers to reopen the pit for this season’s performance.
“I’m so excited. It takes it to a different level. This is what you get when you go to Cleveland. You have an orchestra for your live performance in a pit,” Merrill said.
Jay Koziorynsky is the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra’s violinist and librarian.
“I’ve played here a long time but I’ve never been in the pit. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen it open. So it’s really, really cool,” he said.
Rachel Stegeman is the concertmaster.
“It’s going to be a little tight. If you get some pictures of it, it has different levels and we’re going to be arraigning ourselves accordingly so we don’t hit each other. But it looks like a great pit, a good size orchestra and from what I can hear, it sounds good,” Stegeman said.
Powers Auditorium opened in 1931 as a movie theater, but the pit wasn’t built until 1969, after the Symphony Society bought Powers. To extend the stage, it would be covered when not in use. The last time it was used was in the early 2000s, but why?
“My guess is just either the productions weren’t here to have it be used or maybe it wasn’t in the kind of shape it could be used,” Stegeman said.
Now that the pit has been opened and restored, the plan is to use it for all Ballet Western Reserve performances at Powers and, who knows, possibly some other performance in the future as well.
You can catch “The Nutcracker” and view the re-opened orchestra pit this weekend at Powers Auditorium in downtown Youngstown. Performances are Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.