CSUN - Valley Performing Arts Center
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January 30, 2011 | By Ellen Oliver, Los Angeles Times

Hollywood turns out for the Valley Performing Arts Center

How do you open a new arts center in the San Fernando Valley? Well, Monica Mancini, declaring herself "the original Valley girl," launched into a haunting rendition of her late father's classic "Moon River," accompanied by Dave Koz and Arturo Sandoval. They were  all part of the crowd at Saturday's Inaugural Gala for the Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge. 

Although many of the 1,700 audience members called the San Fernando Valley their home, gala co-chair Sally Magaram said, "We have people here from all over Los Angeles." Magaram was joined at the festivities by co-chairs Linda and Mike Curb, Jean and David Fleming, Carole Curb Nemoy and Norman Nemoy and Ginny Mancini.

Sel Kardan, president of the Colburn School, marveled at his short drive from Beverly Hills. "No traffic," he said.

Mancini said the song "Moon River" changed her life, and the lives of her family, when they lived three blocks from the college campus.

"The Valley's a happening place," Mancini continued, after filing into the party tent, along with the night's other performers and 700 guests paying a minimum $1,000 each for dinner and dancing.  She said that although her father, composer Henry Mancini, was already known for his theme from TV's "Peter Gunn" and other compositions, after "Moon River" the family moved from the Valley "because that's what you did then." She said she has since moved back.

Another Valley resident, "City Island" star Andy Garcia, said, "A lot of people need this stage. It provides a great new opportunity for artists to show their work." Earlier that evening, Garcia played bongos to Sandoval's trumpet.

 "It's a wonderful thing to open a new theater," said Tyne Daly, adding that she came to help "put the mojo on the walls."

Between the burrata-cheese course and the braised boneless short ribs, American Ballet Theatre principals Gillian Murphy and Jose Manuel Carreno helped party-goers pack the dance floor as the band blasted "Oh, What a Night."  

After welcoming all "to a new era for the arts in this part of Los Angeles," CSUN President Jolene Koester joined celebrants, among them Davis Gaines, Benjamin Bratt, Jane Kaczmarek, Calista Flockhart, Keith David, Doris Roberts, Bart Simpson's voice Nancy Cartwright, the show's music director Richard Kaufman, and producers Robert Egan and Nicholas Goldsborough.  

-- Ellen Olivier


August 18, 2010 | By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times

$125-million Valley Performing Arts Center to debut with Moscow State Symphony

The Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge is about to fill a void in the San Fernando Valley, which heretofore has lacked a major hall for concerts, opera, dance and Broadway musicals.

You can hardly blame folks for Russian into it.

(We'll pause here for your groans to die down.)

Yes, the Moscow State Symphony, under music director Pavel Kogan, will put the $125-million, 1,700-seat hall to an early test on Nov. 1 in what's billed as one of two invitation-only shakedown shows for the venue. The gala opening is Jan. 29, 2011, followed on Feb. 5 by the first regular performance. The announcement of the inaugural season is planned for Oct. 27.

The center, designed by the Minneapolis firm Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, features adjustable acoustic panels, and the Muscovites, who according to their agents' website are scheduled to tour with soloists Jeremy Denk (piano) and Jennifer Koh (violin), have been engaged to provide the music for the required tuning. 

The concert is being offered as a perk to subscribers to the already-announced fall season in the campus' existing main performance venue, the 500-seat Plaza del Sol Performance Hall, where the offerings include the Bayanihan Philippine National Dance Company, Ed Asner in "FDR" and the Acting Company's staging of "Romeo and Juliet."

While the new hall awaits its final construction touches and tuneup, the fund-raising campaign to pay for it continues. Gailya Brown, senior director of the campaign, said Tuesday that about $24.5 million has been raised so far toward a goal of $50 million. The other $75 million for the steel-framed, glass-paneled building comes from a state bond issue and other non-local government sources.

The top donor so far is Mike Curb, the music mogul and former California lieutenant governor who in 2006 pledged $5 million for the performing arts center and $5 million for what's now called the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication. The school's dean, Robert Bucker, doubles as executive director of the Valley Performing Arts Center. Curb left the campus -- then known as San Fernando Valley State College -- in 1963, after a freshman year in which he got started as a songwriter and producer. 

The other big private gifts are a $2-million bequest from Clyde Porter, an arts philanthropist who died in 2006; $1.2 million from Nextel Communications; and $1 million each from David and Jean Fleming, the CSUN Foundation and the CSUN Alumni Assn.

L.A. County supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich are chipping in with large sums from their discretionary capital funds -- $2 million from Yaroslavsky and $500,000 from Antonovich.

The campaign also received a $2.3-million bequest in 2005 from alumni Jack and Mary Bayramian, with its earnings funding scholarships in the arts.

The university is still angling for a hefty donation that will buy naming rights to the 1,700-seat venue, Bucker said Tuesday. Until then, it's the Great Hall. "It's a beautiful facility," the dean said, "and it's going to be an exciting place to come to performances," with such amenities as wood paneling, natural-wood seats upholstered in a gray, tweed-like fabric, and a mink-colored velour stage curtain.

Two smaller venues in the new center, a 178-seat black box theater and a 230-seat lecture hall, will be used for the university's educational programs, Bucker said, with the main multipurpose hall primarily for professional offerings. The building's two rehearsal halls will have the same stage footprints as its two performance spaces. The center also will house the broadcast studios of Cal State Northridge's radio station, KCSN-FM (88.5).

-- Mike Boehm

October 28, 2010 | By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times

Valley Performing Arts Center sets gala opening Jan. 29

Cal State Northridge's new theater books 14 performances for its four-month spring season, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, Arianna Huffington and Joan Rivers.

Does Robert Redford have plans for the last Saturday in January?

Recalling his L.A. boyhood for The Times in 1990, the actor-director and Sundance Institute founder said that when his family moved from West Los Angeles to Van Nuys for his high school years, it was "like … being tossed into quicksand. There was no culture, it was very oppressive."

Half a century on, at long last there's something afoot that might lure Redford and other arts lovers to the San Fernando Valley — or at least make it worth their while to check the cultural listings and consider that, on a given night, Cal State Northridge may have the most happening arts palace in town.

The difference-maker is the new Valley Performing Arts Center, a $125-million, 1,700-seat answer to one of America's longest-running geographical put-downs. Tyne Daly, Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel and Dave Koz will highlight the gala opening Jan. 29. Then it's down to business — if not quite business as usual. Taking a deliberately gradualist approach to presenting in a major hall after years of booking only a 500-seater, the university will offer 14 performances in a four-month spring season.

Classical attractions are the China Philharmonic Orchestra (April 16) and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (March 12). For Broadway fans, there are concerts by Joel Grey and Marvin Hamlisch (Feb. 26), Brian Stokes Mitchell (April 30) and Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin (May 21). Dance offerings are the Russian National Ballet's "Swan Lake" (Feb. 8), Parsons Dance (March 4) and Aszure Barton & Artists (March 26). Arianna Huffington lectures on Feb. 19, and Joan Rivers jests on March 1. Shirley MacLaine performs May 7; pop music performers are Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright III (Feb. 5) and Rosanne Cash (March 19). Mexican brass quintet Metales M5 plays a free Cinco de Mayo concert on the plaza framed by the three-sided performance center, where the reflective glass and tile exterior changes colors as each day progresses.

Tickets are $15 to $55, or $25 to $70, with subscriber discounts of 10% to 40%.

Instrumental soloists are not represented in the first half-season but will be a staple of seasons to come, says Robert Bucker, whose job as dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication places him in charge of the new venue. But runs of touring Broadway shows — a key component and money-maker for many multipurpose performing arts centers — will not. Bucker doesn't want to duplicate or compete with the existing Broadway series at the Pantages, the Ahmanson and the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center. "Our idea was to do something different." Only Parsons Dance, in Long Beach, and Rivers, in La Mirada, have other engagements in Los Angeles County during the same time frame they'll play Northridge.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who joined fellow supervisor Mike Antonovich and lead donor Mike Curb among the dignitaries getting a preview of the center on Wednesday, noted that the county's $2.5-million share of the cost comes with a "memorandum of understanding" that the county-owned Music Center will send some of its programming to Northridge "when possible." The initial spring season doesn't include any sharing.

The Valley center is about 24 miles from both the Music Center and the Thousand Oaks center, and about 17 miles from the UCLA Live series at Royce Hall. It's assumed that the realities of evening traffic in L.A. create a substantial buffer zone that will make 2 million Valley residents look to the new venue. Campus officials said that state funding will cover 78% of the $4.1-million annual budget, which also calls for $700,000 in box-office earnings and about $200,000 in donations.

Meanwhile, the campaign to pay for construction continues. State bond revenue covered much of the cost, but the university still has $17 million to raise toward its $50-million share, said Jolene Koester, the Cal State Northridge president who began pushing for the center soon after her arrival in 2000.

"We're very confident that when people see and hear this hall, other philanthropists will step forward," she said. Among its attractions are adjustable acoustics in which movable wooden canopies can be positioned according to a given show's needs.

Visually, the Valley Performing Arts Center offers curving lines both inside and outside, with patterned quartz tiles dominating the view from Nordhoff Street, the main drag fronting the university, and painted steel and slightly green-tinted glass prominent from the campus. The lobby floor and staircases are travertine marble; blond Brazilian wood, gray steel mesh and grayish upholstery dominate the interior.

Koester says the new venue won't simply redirect Valley residents from other venues but will foster new fans for live performances and lead to a bigger pie that will benefit all the region's presenters. "This is long overdue."

The Valley Performing Arts Center instantly becomes the university's top attraction for the surrounding community, Koester said, and is likely to outdraw the varsity basketball games in a 1,600-seat gym.


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