TRAVERSE CITY — In the beginning there was popcorn.
Now audiences at the Old Town Playhouse can choose from a dozen or so locally made treats.
The playhouse began talking at the end of last season about fluffing up its concessions as a revenue stream for volunteer appreciation parties and other no-budget activities, said executive director Phil Murphy. The volunteer project committee opted for a local focus.
“It kind of started with ‘Les Miserables’” in October and November," said volunteer concessions manager Billie Thompson. “Halfway through, we were changing items. We started out with the obvious vendors on Front Street, like Pop-kie’s and Cherry Republic. Then I went around trying to find things.
"If you saw things that looked good, it was 'buy it and try it.' So for the first three shows, we moved a lot of things in and out.”
Mainstays include Pop-kie’s popcorn, Cherry Republic's sour cherry patches and milk chocolate-covered dried cherries, pretzels from Uncle Gene’s Backwoods Products, potato chips from Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. and two flavors of ice cream cups from Moomers.
“We add chocolate syrup if they want it and we give them spoons and they can take it upstairs,” Thompson said. “It’s just like sitting in your home in your recliner.”
Welcoming food inside the theater is another OTP season change. Noshing was formerly restricted to Traverse City Film Festival screenings.
The change speeds up transactions and relieves congestion in the downstairs concessions area during intermissions, Thompson said. Volunteers will even transfer your popcorn from a crinkly cellophane bag to a “quiet bag” in consideration of the actors and other audience members.
Thompson opens the concessions about an hour before each show and handles busy intermissions sales with the help of two ushers.