A Glimpse into SPAC’s Future

On the cover: Romeo dances as night falls. The new Pines Pavilion at SPAC

SARATOGA SPRINGS – In late August, 2020, my colleague Amy Ryan and myself were given a rare privilege, which in fact, had several layers to digest, as you will see. The ostensible occasion was interesting enough: A unique program that was an audio-based performance commemorating Beethoven’s 250th birthday – co-produced by Saratoga Shakespeare Company and SPAC. A link to Amy’s excellent analysis and review appears again at the end of this post.

Julie Bonacio Family Pavilion

But, while we were on time for the performance, it turned out that we were late! The sun was setting, and as we walked with pace to something called “The Pines Terrace,” I believe we both suffered a strong case of whiplash as we were dazzled by all the new things that were there to see!

Alas, by the end of the performance, it was dark, and though the illuminated structures were quite spectacular in themselves, I felt that there was so much I had missed… I had to get back in the daylight, to help put all this new stuff in perspective.

And to assure myself I wasn’t just dreaming.


As it turned out, such an opportunity presented itself on September 3rd, as SPAC was putting on a one of a series of socially-distanced “thank you” video presentations – beamed from the side of the new “Pines Pavilion.” These were offered to members who had kept their memberships going, as well as “Classical Stars” – those who had donated the money they had originally spent on tickets to 2020 Classical performances, which could not take place.

On the evening of my visit, the video shown was the Royal Ballet’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. On other evenings, the screenings ran the gamut from performances from resident companies The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Philadelphia Orchestra; to movie nights featuring Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (Tom Hanks) to Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Not surprisingly, SPAC received several glowing “thank you” messages, for both for the atmospherics they created under these conditions, as well as the effort they made to pull these shows off! A sampling:

“Given that the thrill of live performances at SPAC couldn’t occur this summer, we truly appreciated this effort keeping us from feeling that we had missed the entire summer at SPAC.  A big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this possible!” – Carol von Kaenel

‘Thank You’ for a delightful evening on the SPAC grounds for the Royal Ballet showing. The acoustics were perfect and we all enjoyed the scenery, the program and the fall-like weather.  {Our group} expressed to one another how appreciative we are for being invited to attend.”  – Barbara Hefter

Hearing and seeing Jonathan Biss perform two Beethoven piano sonatas on the screen above SPAC’s new Pines Terrace was our first opportunity since March to gather safely with others for a world class performance. We left with tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts. Thank you, SPAC!” – Gretta Keene & Bill Murray

So, out of necessity comes opportunity – which in this case extends beyond the beam of a hi-def video screen onto the upper lawn… the Pines Pavilion building also contains a terrace which will provide a unique view of live amphitheater shows, and, perhaps most importantly, the Education Room at The Pines – SPAC’s first year-round space for education and community outreach. All furthering its mission to break boundaries – of space, and of the calendar.

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating often: SPAC’s summer performances may have “paused” for 2020, but they hardly went fishing. Instead, they put their time “off” to excellent use. Necessity became opportunity – a mission furthered by efforts that extend well beyond ‘pines and mortar.’


I made sure to get there while the sun was still up for awhile, in order to capture the whole concept. I say ‘concept’ because the new structures, as striking as they were, only tell part of the tale. It is the layout of these buildings that is as important as what they contain. And it all begins with

An unbroken line of sight.

You enter SPAC, and walk across the bridge leading to the lawn and amphitheater, as you have done a zillion times before. They are on the left as always, but you don’t even notice, because your eyes are drawn elsewhere. This is what you see:

Your eyes are funneled, straight ahead, past the new buildings, and go beyond – no longer obstructed by outdated bathrooms and concessions…

… onto the expanse of the great lawn – the Hall of Springs and its Jazz Bar is on the left; the Wood Gazebo on your right – but your eyes are still straight ahead….

In the far distance, outstripping my digital camera’s zoom, your unbroken line of sight extends beyond the fence, all the way to the Roosevelt Baths, and beyond to the Victoria Pool, gleaming in the setting sun.

SPAC is now more unified with the Spa State Park, and open.


As I walked the grounds, now for the second time this season, and hovered in the back while watching the Montagues and Capulets do their thing, I felt the rush from cascading feelings of emotion – not the least of which was irony.

You see, many of us ‘reporter-types’ love our exclusives. But this is one I wish I didn’t have.

I’d much rather have you see firsthand what I had the privilege of seeing. I am certainly delighted to share all this with you, but look forward much more to that day – when the all-clear has been given, for SPAC to have its official unveiling, with ribbon-cutting and all the whoop-de-doop that they so richly deserve for their efforts.

Please let that day come soon.

Until that great day, as Gretta and Bill so poignantly stated above, it is “with hope in our hearts,” that you enjoy this gallery from my two visits (with additional photos by Amy Ryan.) They are meant to offer a glimpse into the brighter future that SPAC has in store for all of us.

Gallery: With Hope in our Hearts

(Amy Ryan’s Beethoven post is HERE.)

Arthur Gonick – September 26, 2020

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