Behind the scenes: Shea’s restoration projects underway while theater is closed due to COVID-19

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Shea’s Performing Arts Center isn’t hosting performances right now due to COVID-19- but when it comes to restoration efforts, the show must go on.

Doris Collins, historic preservation consultant for Shea’s, and volunteers are hard at work on multiple projects which normally would take longer to be completed during the season.

They usually work around the shows’ schedules, setting up scaffolding and ladders when they can.

“When they’re here, we find work on small projects- light fixtures, furniture pieces we can do in our shop,” Collins said.

Now, the team is working on four big projects- one of which is completed, and another is almost done.

“We actually covered most of the area through the building- there are still a couple of walls that have not been touched, so those are future plans for the rest of the fall,” Collins added.

Keeping the 1926 building looking shipshape is a labor of love- a nearly continual labor.

“I often compare it to the Golden Gate Bridge- you start painting it, and when it’s done you’re back doing it at the other end,” said Kevin Sweeney, director of marketing and communications for Shea’s said. “It’s an ongoing process that will continue forever- it’s a gorgeous theatre that requires a lot of love and care, and between the staff and volunteers, they really do treat it like its their own.”

Since the theater is designated as a National Historic Site, everything needs to be kept true to how it originally looked- from the paint to the carpeting and drapes.

“I try to find local workers as much as possible, rather than bringing in people from the outside,” Collins said.

Volunteers at Shea’s don’t need to have any major talents- they get in-house training, she added.

“Everybody has a different interest- we find a niche for whoever comes in,” Collins said. “There’s always enough work to go around.”

Since Shea’s is a large building, there’s room for volunteers to be safely socially distanced.

And they’re always looking for volunteers- if you’re interested, you can call the box office at (716)847-0850 and ask for Doris.

Shea’s currently has live performances scheduled to start in December, but whether they’ll be able to happen is dependent on both the theater being given the green light to reopen and whether the tour is ready to go.

“We’re very hopeful that we’ll be opening soon,” Sweeney added.

Shea’s has hosted some small events during its “intermission”- including a small prom event for 25 students, and a small wedding.

“We can host up to a certain number of people based on the state mandate, and we certainly welcome any type of interest in renting a space as long as we can stay within the guidelines,” Sweeney said. “Safety is very important to us.”

When Shea’s is ready to reopen, it will be completely closeup-ready.

“When we’re able to reopen, I would challenge anyone to find something that doesn’t look finished,” Sweeney said. “The love that goes into this building, it speaks volumes to everyone in the community- we treat this like its our own theater, it belongs to everyone here.”

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