Public Affairs

CSU Performing Arts Centers Usher in Talent

August 30, 2012
By Stephanie Thara

The Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at CSU Long Beach and CSU Northridge’s Valley Performing Arts Center

September marks the start of a new performing arts season at CSU campuses filled with orchestra phenoms, hilarious satires, unrestrained dance recitals and live concerts. The Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at CSU Long Beach and CSU Northridge’s Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) serve as prime sources of arts and culture for the campus and local community.

“We host everyone from resident musical theatre companies to cultural organizations on campus,” said Michele Roberge, executive director of CSULB’s Carpenter Center. “We like to say that we provide a gateway between the campus and greater Long Beach community.”

Built in 1994, the Carpenter Center holds more than 200 events throughout the year and has served as the stage for the Los Angeles Opera, Shirley MacLaine, Leonard Nimoy, Paul Oakenfold and Clint Back. Located slightly north of Long Beach, CSUN’s VPAC has shined the spotlight on performers such as Kenny Rogers, CSUN’s Valley Performing Arts Center’s Great Hall. Photo courtesy of VPAC. the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Ramsey Lewis and the Russian National Ballet Theatre.

Fitted with sound absorptive wool serge fabric, adjustable ceiling panels to enhance music quality, and 34,000 square feet of mesh panels used for variable sound purposes, the VPAC boasts acoustical excellence that rivals any venue in Southern California.

“Every acoustical aspect has been well thought out,” said Therri Donnelly, community outreach associate for VPAC. “The Center has four levels, and when someone whispers on the stage, you can actually hear them on the highest level of the balcony.”

Whenever possible, CSULB and CSUN students have the opportunity to participate in world premiere performances hosted by the Centers, work directly with the artists and gain experience from theater management. For example, CSULB students assist artists in reaching out to Long Beach youth through Classroom Connections. The program brings professional performing artists into local elementary classrooms, where the artists build relationships with children by sharing stories about their performances and explaining the importance of art. The children are then invited to the Carpenter Center to see these artists perform live on stage.

Six elementary schools were taught a dance routine as part of Classroom Connections. Photo courtesy of Victoria Sanchez.The Centers work with various departments on campus to help further enrich the curriculum and broaden students’ educational opportunities. In addition to helping the theater and music department showcase their talent to the community, VPAC houses an art gallery where students can display their work. The gallery rotates every six weeks, giving students and patrons a chance to admire a variety of visual arts pieces while waiting to experience the dynamic shows that brought them into the performing arts centers.