I'm not sure how I waited to have these two on the show, but better late than never. This week, I have two great guests joining me from The Bend Theatre in downtown West Bend. The theater's executive director, Bill Buettner, and the box office and events director, Megan Cox, join me to talk about The Bend's storied history, they highlight some features that make The Bend an "experience venue," and promote some of the great shows coming up this fall and winter.
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Fuzz Martin 0:00
Hey happy fall y'all welcome to the pumpkin spice latte of public service announcements the PSL of PSAs. It's a show I like to call Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. I'm your host Fuzz Martin and it's my favorite time of the year. We'll get cooler temperatures soon hopefully. We just got through Labor Day weekend. It's football season school is back in session. My wife and I have our birthdays this month. It is a good month all around.
Fuzz Martin 0:37
If you ask anyone to name the most iconic buildings in Washington County, you'll likely hear holy hill, the tower Heritage Center, and the iconic Bend Theater in downtown West Bend. This week, The Bend's executive director Bill Buettner and box office and events director Megan Cox, join me to talk about the theater, we'll explore its history renovation, the challenges it's overcome and what to expect this fall and winter season. With that here are 15 minutes on the bend theater with Bill Buettner and Megan Cox on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.
Fuzz Martin 1:23
Megan and Bill, first of all, I can't believe this is my I think 87th episode. And this is the first time having The Bend on the air, which is crazy to me. So thank you for coming in.
Bill Buettner 1:32
It's our pleasure. Yeah, I think we actually weren't going to do a interview with us earlier. But we had just gone through some staff changes. And Megan and I were both new onboard. And we thought maybe we should get a little experience first before we come to chat with you.
Fuzz Martin 1:47
I feel like you guys have good experience now. Oh, yeah. It's been around a little bit. So since this is the first official episode talking about the bend on the show, and we have people from throughout Washington County, not just in the West Bend area, but all the way up on the deep far corners of Hartford, no offense, Hartford and other areas that may not be familiar with the band. Could you please give us a bit of history about the men theater when it was built when it was first open?
Bill Buettner 2:14
Sure. Megan, I'll take that one. Okay. The theater was opened in 1929. And it was originally a vaudeville stage. Shortly after it opened, the Depression hit. So vaudeville kind of went by the wayside. And it pretty much just turned into a movie theater. So it served the community for almost 70 years as a movie theater, and went through different variations. In the 80s. They wanted to try to keep up with multiplex theaters, and they divided it into three theaters. But then in 2006, just pretty much shut down.
Fuzz Martin 2:50
And then leading up to 2020 There was a movement to restore the theater, right?
Bill Buettner 2:56
Yes, we acquired the building in 2016. We went through about two years of like a marketing survey of what the community really wanted the theater to be. We also, of course, had to do fundraising. And then in 2018, the renovations kicked off, and we completed a $4.6 million renovation.
Fuzz Martin 3:18
So first of all, it's amazing, though, the work that went into that just the sheer amount of fundraising work in the details that they put in, they made it when you renovated it it was to make it feel like the original, right?
Bill Buettner 3:32
Yes, it pretty much went back to how it looked in 1929 when it opened as that vaudeville theater. During the renovations, something unexpected happened, they were just going to like painted a overall color. But somebody had the idea of checking out what the original color schemes were. And they found these beautiful stencils. And so the stencil the paint was pretty much taken off the walls layer by layer to come up with the original color scheme and the original stencil patterns. And that was all restored then back to that original look. So when you walk in there, you think you're you're back in 1929 Yeah,
Fuzz Martin 4:04
it's amazing. And obviously you have introduced some more modern comforts to the to the old building. So it's feels like the 1929 building but you've got a great bar and the beautiful restrooms and all that I mean beautiful restrooms that sounds like
Megan Cox 4:19
it's funny though, we have compliments all the time on how nice our restrooms
Fuzz Martin 4:23
are super brave. Restrooms are beautiful, but I mean it's it has all the creature comforts and also feels like 1929.
Bill Buettner 4:32
Yeah, originally sat about 825 guests during a renovation and during this this marketing study that we did, people said they didn't want it to just be a theater. So we leveled off part of the floor and lost some seating but doing that we were able to have a spot now for the new handicap accessible bathrooms and the of course the the bar that we have. So now we can see 330 which is like a perfect perfect size for the different events that we Hold on, which Megan's going to talk about some of the things that The Bend does.
Fuzz Martin 5:03
Sure, certainly. So the theater has, it's an awesome experience gives a great sound. and such, but you have a mix of different types of performances and shows that have been what do you guys feature?
Megan Cox 5:13
Yeah, we do live comedy events. We do live music, concerts, attribute events. And we also have private rentals. We do still show those movies that are the classics today, then we do like the movies that are coming up. Right. You know, yeah. In new releases, but your favorite? Yes, yes, exactly. So classic films. Yeah, the screen that comes down. So that's really awesome. But yeah, you can host a private party, if you decide you want to, you know, have your bachelorette party or whatever it is, you can have party at the event as well.
Fuzz Martin 5:44
Yeah, corporate events, all those kinds of things. And the settings are really great. And again, the sound is awesome. So it's one of those where you you never leave disappointed whether you're there for a movie or for a show and such, you opened, reopen after the renovation in 2020. And then obviously, the pandemic hit yes.
Bill Buettner 6:04
And we talk about when the theater originally opened shortly after it, there was a Great Depression, when we opened on March 20, of 2020. Yeah, I think on the 21st, we closed for about literal next day, we had a sold out crowd for the first event at the theater, and then we shut down after that.
Fuzz Martin 6:27
And then we got through the bulk of the pandemic. And then West Bend is renovating Main Street, now you're open. So it's not that I like closed, but kind of feel like that. The third of the things come in threes.
Bill Buettner 6:43
And hopefully that's it. We've actually done pretty well, even with the Main Street construction, we we were selective on how many events we wanted to put on. Because summertime, there's so many activities that people can do. They don't necessarily want to be in a theater. So we had more like one big event a month, and pretty well known events. So we were able to have sellout crowds even through this construction,
Megan Cox 7:05
Oh, great. They kind of knew what was from working together for a year, we kind of had that like idea of what was seeming to be what the community wanted. So we were like, well, we'll plan that accordingly. We worked with our programming team and just kind of thought out some big hitter events that we kind of had a feeling we're going to do well through this process. And it still has been pretty successful throughout the summer with construction. So we'll take it.
Fuzz Martin 7:29
Yeah, that's awesome. That's great. And that is very good point. So you're coming into the fall and winter seasons. That's when you guys have a ton. Oh, yeah.
Megan Cox 7:35
That's our, what we call our busy season. Sure. Yeah, sure. So
Fuzz Martin 7:39
So that worked out pretty well for you guys in that way. And congrats on being able to pack it up during the construction to make sure that that place is full,
Bill Buettner 7:47
the city has also been great to work with, we notify them ahead of time when we have a big event. And they'll just make sure that everything's kind of as good as it can be in front of the front of the theater chair. Same with the contractors they've been just great to work with.
Megan Cox 8:00
And we also kind of feel that it's helping a lot of the downtown businesses by having those events too. So like we want to make sure like if people are coming out, we're telling them, Hey, go to the restaurants make a whole evening of it and just kind of really experienced downtown because it's still open.
Fuzz Martin 8:15
Yeah, that's a really great point. So the in the city has been graded in an eye, it seems and they will never admit to the road work being done on time because they it's like saying how great your baby sleeps, it'll eventually turn around and it's gonna scream maybe all the time. So, but the roadwork, seems to be going well, very projected opening date as of October, October 27.
Bill Buettner 8:35
All the weekly reports that come out indicate that it's on schedule.
Fuzz Martin 8:40
Yeah. So do you have anything planned for once that is open? Is there any sort of celebration guys you're doing or anything in that regard?
Bill Buettner 8:48
We're kind of tying it in with the tree lighting ceremony. Yeah.
Megan Cox 8:51
So there's the tree lighting ceremony. And the next day we're having yesterday and Today Beatles Experience / Interactive Experience. So those two kind of events are going to be kind of our big celebration weekend of everything going on in downtown West Bend everything
Fuzz Martin 9:05
open. Everybody's ready to drive and park and all the new spots. And exactly I'm yeah, I'm looking forward to that. As we come into the fall, obviously, we talked about that becoming the start of your busy season. What kind of other events do you guys have on the docket for this fall season?
Megan Cox 9:22
Yeah, so we have in September, we have a lot of original artists. We have Emma Juana, we have The Traveling Suitcase. If you are looking for a tribute act. We have the Fortunate Sons, which is a CCR, Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band, that's going to be super awesome. Going into October, we will have October movies, we always do like horror movies or you know, different Halloween based kind of films. We're working on that right now. But we also have Steely Dane coming back. They did incredible last time they were here. They have an awesome light show too. So that's a big awesome one to come to. If you like a lot Each show yeah, a lots of different stuff throughout, which then leads into our November. December which kind of turns into our Christmas holiday season. Um, so we have a lot of different Christmas shows coming music artists that you know, have their own Christmas set that they like to go around, you know, and do so yeah, lots of different kinds of fun stuff. Dan Rodriguez is coming back. We have Four Guys in Dinner Jackets, which is a two night event kind of like a dueling pianos kind of vibe. So
yeah, we're My in laws are coming down. They live in Door County, and they're gonna come down to the ABBA show. Oh, yeah. So they're very much looking forward to that we saw the the Bee-Gees down at like the Pabst or something. And then they always have Alba playing when we go to their house. So we, we saw that you guys had that on sale. And I don't know if it's sold out or not
yet, but it's very close. We have two nights of that show this year, we did bring Dancing Queen last year. And they sold out really fast. And so we were like, Let's bring two nights. And right now, I would say night to our Saturday night show that one is pretty much at capacity, almost capacity at least. And there's probably less than 100 tickets left for Friday night. So if you want to get that's definitely a now kind of bias. So
excellent. Yeah, we're, we're, they're super looking forward to it, we're looking forward to it as well. This is, this is our jam. If somebody's looking to purchase tickets, what's the best way for them to do so
through our website, thebendwi.org. That's a great place to start. If you're looking for anything that's coming up just wanting to check it out. There's a Event tab to click on that. And then you end up going down and click on the events you want. And then there's a little button that says Get tickets, it directs you right to that ticketing link. And you can purchase tickets from there, but liking us on Facebook or Instagram. Those are also great ways to see what's coming up. And there's usually links there as well.
certainly, so let me ask both of you what you've obviously, both have seen many, many shows at The Bend. What were some of your favorites.
I know Bill's his his Whiskey Belles.
Oh, they do a great job. Yeah, just three girls just delightful people with beautiful harmonies. They do. Yeah. Oh, yeah, fun. Sure. But I think last year I really was. I really enjoyed the holidays.
Yeah, the holidays. There's just something magical about bringing a bunch of people together and celebrating the holidays together with them. But for me, I definitely loved a boyband night because it just the audience was a totally different vibe, the whole I mean, everyone in that theater was standing and dancing. And I just love having that many people having so much fun. So yeah, that's what I really enjoy.
That's wonderful. And let's see, I've been on stage probably more than I've been there to actually watch because I end up when am I seeing everything I see stuff? I think well, Guitars for Vets. I believe it's coming up. Right? Yeah. And then obviously, the Volunteer Center's event that they had last year and the year before. So you do a great job. Thank you. I have fun. And again, it's the you guys make it easy while we're there. And your sound team is great. So for those who want to support the band, what are some ways that they can contribute? Because I don't think we talked about it. But the band is a nonprofit, right? It's a 501(c)3? Yes. So if people want to contribute either financially or non financially, what's, how can they help?
Well, we very much appreciate our volunteers, we have a great volunteer force. To become a volunteer, you can go on our website, the Ben wi.org. And there's a get involved tab. And you can sign up for orientation, which is basically 15 minutes of showing exits and some of the duties that the volunteers do. And then you can sign up for volunteer opportunities right after that, but we have probably 20 or so volunteers that just do a fantastic job. But you can always use more.
Oh, yeah, yeah, um, we like to kind of do fun stuff for our volunteers. We just had a volunteer appreciation event, or we had everyone come in, had a movie night with our volunteers. And then we like to have you know, different incentives and stuff, you volunteer a certain amount of times, you get some tickets where you don't actually have to sit and work as part of the event, you can actually just hang out and bring your buddy or your husband or your wife or whatever, you know, just have a good time. So and then another great way to help support to the bend is if you are interested in volunteering, that's great. But if you also want to donate we're always accepting donations to to continue to bring really wonderful things to the downtown area and make a difference in our community.
Great, perfect any exciting plans or projects that are coming up for The Bend.
Well, it's not officially announced yet but Taylor Swift Dance Party, we're gonna bring them out so I'm excited about that one but that's just me thing. But no, we have a second year that we're gonna be doing a Santa Meet and Greet which is just a really really great opportunity to kind of get your get your kids out and I don't know it's it's honestly magical. So awesome. You
I wish we showed the movie I think it was Polar Express. And then Megan and I went in front of well, it was sold out. It was a packed audience. So Megan and I went front of the guests, and we started singing a Christmas song. And while we were singing, the screen lifted, and here we had Santa and an elf on stage, so that the kids could all come up and have pictures take Oh, a meet and greet. And it was to hear that excitement in the kids voices when they had screen raised, and they saw Santa sitting on the red sled with the elf behind them. It was just unbelievable experience.
Oh, that's cool. We're also finishing off the year with a 1929 themed New Year's Eve bash. So that's also going to be a really big fun celebration day for us and awesome, highly recommend coming out.
Perfect. Well, again, thebendwi.org has all the tickets for things and follow you guys on social on Facebook, Instagram. Yeah, the two main ones. Yeah. And we appreciate it. And congrats to both you for weathering. Obviously you didn't weathered the Great Depression, but COVID and now road construction. I wish you guys a successful fall and Christmas season. He goes Welcome. Come back on and we'll talk more about the bend. Indiana shows coming up later on. Okay,
awesome. Sounds great. Thank you. Oh, sure.
We'll see you on stage. All right. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you again to Bill Buettner and Megan Cox of the bend theater for joining me on this week's episode of Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. The Bend is such a great venue and I hope that you'll catch a show or two as we head into the end of the year. By the way. At the start of the show, I said it was my 87th episode. That was only kind of sort of true. It was actually my 84th Three of those episodes were trailers, so I don't count those. This one was 84. On the 85th. We'll be speaking with village administrator Jen Keller of the village of Jackson. And if you have an idea for a subject or guest for the show, type fuzz.cc/guest in your browser, and you can fill up the form from there fuzz.cc/guest all the episodes are available online fifteenwithfuzz.com Be sure to click the Follow button and your favorite podcast player and I'll talk to you next Tuesday here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.