Year End Report

2020 Year End Report

The Lerner Theatre 2020 Year End Report
Download the 2020 Report (10MB)


Michelle Frank, Executive Director, The Lerner Theatre

“A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It’s my favorite part of the business, live concerts.”
– Elvis Presley

In 2020, as our world shut down due to the Coronavirus global pandemic, The Lerner went dark and live concerts, which are our identity, were shuttered. Across the live events industry, I watched my colleagues close their theatre doors, some never able to re-open. I read stories about the mental health of live events professionals, who struggled with the shutdown of our industry and attempts to find ways to keep a roof over their heads without any work. At the same time, I read headlines about COVID Relief stimulus packages that did not include the live events industries.

If I could sum 2020 up in two words, it would be gratefulness and determination. Gratefulness to those that saw the future of The Lerner and its importance to the community, far past this pandemic, and determination of my team at The Lerner to find a new identity and a new relevance, despite not being able to bring live events to our community.

There was still much to be proud of that came out of last year and by reevaluating what we deemed “success,” we had a successful year! Nearly $600,000.00 in technical theatre upgrades were completed and installed, which will set The Lerner Theatre forward for the next 5-7 years. We were able to pivot to virtual performances during the stay-at-home order, streaming live music performances and organ concerts from The Lerner stage through our social media platforms, that reached people all over the world.

For me, the most exciting thing to come of 2020 was the display windows for Christmas on the exterior of our building. It was heart breaking to approach a Christmas season and to not be able to gather in the Christmas spirit in The Lerner with our patrons. I approached our partners at Premier Arts with the concept of outward Christmas displays that anyone could come take a part in. Within two weeks, the talented team at Premier Arts had conceptualized, built and installed window displays about the classic Christmas story, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The overwhelming response from the community was of thankfulness that these windows brought the Christmas spirit that so many needed during such a trying year living through a pandemic. This project was incredibly successful, that we are now actively planning to make this an annual tradition.

In 2021, we are looking forward to a new chapter. Efforts to safely open our building to the public again have been ongoing with the Elkhart County Health Department and an announcement was made that social distanced shows will begin at The Lerner in May.

Thank you for continuing to support The Lerner Theatre. We are grateful to Mayor Roberson, his administration, the Elkhart City Council, Lerner Governing Board and Friends of The Lerner for their dedication to our operations and to the employees of The Lerner that remained dedicated to the building during the pandemic. The ache that our team felt by not being able to welcome you into our building in 2020 to enjoy live concerts and events has begun to fade into excitement that we will be able to gather soon in the beauty of The Lerner.

Michelle Frank, Executive Director


Gary D. Boyn, President, Lerner Governing Board2020 has been a year we would all like to forget. If it hadn’t been for the strong and faithful financial support of the City Administration and Common Council The Lerner may not have survived. In order to protect the public from the COVID-19 virus, and to accommodate promoters who needed to protect their investments by rescheduling shows into 2021, the Theatre and Ballroom were dark much of the year and our ability to help fund our budget from operations was substantially reduced.

The Lerner staff found various ways to stay relevant, even though public gatherings were severely restricted, by holding virtual concerts funded by The Friends of The Lerner, engaging the community through social media and the Christmas window displays created by Premier Arts. We will continue to use social media and other marketing tools to maintain our community relationships and advertise our upcoming program to bring the entire facility back to its pre-pandemic levels and beyond. In 2021 we are contracting with a public relations firm (SKPR) and a digital marketing firm (Eyedart) to improve our outreach efforts.

The staff used the time to make interior improvements and upgrades which will serve us well for years to come. We are committed to keeping the facility as beautiful and operational as it was when it opened. The critical needs funding you approved and provided through Friends of The Lerner will benefit the facility in the years to come.

Maintaining and supporting the arts in all forms is critical in maintaining a livable community that will retain and attract businesses and residents. The support you have given to revitalize the community over the years has produced significant results. The Lerner is committed to support those efforts whenever the opportunity arises.

The public will be anxious to resume pre-covid activities including attending events at The Lerner and in the ballroom. The staff’s efforts in 2020 have positioned us to take full advantage of that demand once restrictions ease and vaccinations take effect.

Thank you for your continued support and faith in our team. We will not let you down. On behalf of The Lerner Board and Staff we wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2021 and beyond.

– Gary D. Boyn, President, Lerner Governing Board


Rex Martin, President, Friends of The LernerWithout a doubt, 2020 was a challenging year for The Lerner. Theatre staff had to learn to work in new ways and to continue to be flexible as unforeseen circumstances unfolded. Friends of The Lerner had a vital role to play in supporting Michelle Frank and her team. It was a privilege to partner with the City Council and Mayor Roberson’s administration in this task, and it was gratifying to see the many ways the theatre was able to give back to the community throughout the year, even as the regular pattern of concerts and ballroom events was put on hold.

Highlights of this most unusual year included:

  • A strong first three months, with record numbers
  • Virtual events on The Lerner stage throughout the year streamed around the world
  • The pivot by staff to serve the community in new ways, including use of the Crystal Ballroom and theatre for socially-distanced City meetings. One notable example of this was the full day of budget hearings for City council hosted in the Crystal Ballroom in September, with professional class microphones for every speaker in the meeting.
  • Extensive 10-year maintenance and upgrades throughout the building on a scale that was only possible because the doors were temporarily closed. The improvements in tech were immediately put to use in The Lerner’s role as a live-streaming location, while the upgrades in light and sound in the theatre will be of great benefit to performers and audiences in years to come.
  • Creative collaboration with building partners, notably Premier Arts and the Elkhart County Symphony, bringing the arts to the community even when regular avenues of performance were unavailable.

In the months to come, The Lerner staff will be hard at work preparing for rescheduled events, with a strong hope that we can experience live music again by the summer. The Friends of The Lerner will continue to partner with theatre staff to bring profitable and diverse shows to our community in 2021 and beyond.

I believe the future for The Lerner is bright. While so many live event venues and their staffs throughout this country were put out of work by the pandemic, the City Administration and Common Council chose to continue to support The Lerner even in the hardest times. As we emerge from these difficult times, The Lerner will be well situated to be a center for the arts for our whole community in the years to come. The Friends of The Lerner will be there every step of the way.

– Rex Martin, President, Friends of The Lerner

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