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A Dream in the Making

Julie Tait, Linda Knohl and Mayor Tait

By Michael Buss, 2011-09-08
With four million visitors a year Anaheim hosts a huge convention center, Disneyland, the Anaheim Angels and the Mighty Ducks. Anaheim also has a resident ballet company and a resident symphony orchestra.

But it has no Performing Arts Center.

Not that this is NOT an artsy city. At street level there are artists by the dozen, and quite a number of galleries. You can find any number of dance studios, get music and singing lessons and strut the stage in small local theatres. The recent art walks in Downtown Anaheim turned out thousands of people. The City’s summer program of activities and arts is huge.

You might wonder whether the Heritage Forum fills the role of a performing arts center. Occasional functions take place there, but overall the venue seems not to be ideal for what the city really needs.

We have no Performing Arts Center.

Note that the small community of Cerritos has a magnificent performing arts center, and that relatively small Costa Mesa can boast South Coast Rep. and the Segerstom complex of concert and performance spaces.

But Anaheim, the tenth largest city in California? Nothing.

And so we come to the newly formed Anaheim Performing Arts Center Foundation – APAC for short - for the rumblings to build such a center for the arts are turning into action. This may be reckoned one of the most exciting initiatives the City has seen for a long time.

Of course, Anaheim will also build its huge new transit interchange (ARTIC) to facilitate the arrival of our 4 million plus visitors for our major attractions. And now the planners will need to make sure the thousands will also be able to hop on a shuttle to the new Performing Arts Center.

Linda Knohl explains the project
to Michael Buss

The initiative came from Linda Knohl, well know locally as a philanthropist, and a passionate supporter of the arts. She, with the OC Symphony and the Anaheim Ballet, formed he original core. Now the organization has expanded to become a 501c non-profit organization and has an extensive board comprising people from the world of real estate, banking, business, the legal profession, and so forth. They meet monthly. The day to day committee of workers is comprised entirely of volunteers.

Detailed discussions have taken place with the City of Anaheim to find a suitable location for the proposed arts center, but no announcement will be made until the decision has been firmed up with all parties.

Naturally a firm of architects has been retained and as soon as we are able we will bring to you, at the very least, an artistic rendering of the project.

For now we can only describe it, starting from the roof:
• A high quality roof top restaurant. There is nothing to match this for miles around. Open daily. Could be rented out for special functions.
• A 1200 seat main auditorium with stage ample enough to accommodate the Symphony, the Ballet, large musical shows and major plays There will be an orchestra pit and overhead fly space.
• Back stage you will find all the necessary facilities -- proper dressing rooms, green room, scene shop, costume shop, etc.
• Out front please expect a box office and a charming bistro where you can grab a snack at any time, or indeed just before a show. There will also be a number of retail spaces. The forum will also provide space for rotating art and sculpture displays.
• Also available a black-box multipurpose 300 seat space for rehearsals or productions that do not require the use of the full auditorium.
• Naturally, there will be parking nearby.
• When fully up and running the center will also be reaching out into schools and the community with extension and education programs. There will also be summer programs during the long school vacation.

Crucially, the City council is completely on board with the proposals. As Mayor Tom Tait said a couple of weeks back at the fundraiser, “Let’s turn this dream into a reality – and that starts right here!” He and the council members are great enthusiasts for the project.

Just think what this will mean for the City in terms of arts and entertainment, visitors, revenue and profile.

The OC Symphony and the Anaheim Ballet will be resident companies in the space. There will also be a permanent theatre production company. But I gather we should not think here of an existing theatre company simply moving in. The production company would plan seasons and stage the productions, going out to audition for everyone from directors and choreographers to actors and musicians. This sounds like great news for Orange County actors who generally have to look to LA to find paid theatre work.

There are two avenues of fund-raising at the moment.

For current operating expenses

A very hot day for a garden party.

Linda Knohl opened the grounds of her Anaheim Hills home over the weekend of August 27-28th for a splendid fundraiser for operating expenses. Saturday entailed an open air banquet, music and entertainment in 1920’s Great Gatsby style. A variety of canopied stalls sold everything from fine jewellry to clothes and delicious aged balsamic vinegar. Lunch was self-service, the bar was free, and the afternoon ended with a fashion show and live auction.

On the runway were the latest designs of Lourdes Chavez and Monique du Rock. In spite of the ferocious heat that afternoon, it really was a magnificent occasion. Several City Council members were there (you had to look twice to recognise Lorri Galloway under her blonde wig and cute 1920s hat!) Julie Tait performed the role of Honorary Chair for the event and husband Tom Tait briefly and enthusiastically endorsed the entire project.

Designer Lourdes Chavez with a group of models.

For investment for the major building project
The completion of such a major enterprise as a new performing arts center in Anaheim will cost many millions of dollars. All we can report right now is that once the decision on location has been made and all the permissions granted there are major investors who will be ready to get the project under way.

In the meantime a second fundraiser for the capital project will take place in the Heritage Forum on Saturday November 5th.

Last year the event was widely misunderstood. The title of the show Broadway Rocks Anaheim led people to think it was a rock concert. In fact it was a show of Broadway stars. The same will happen this year.

For Nov. 5th at Broadway Rocks Anaheim Again! expect to see about 28 Broadway stars giving their time FREE, because they so believe in the vision of this new performing arts center. Shirley Jones is already booked. I hear here will be some of your favorites from Glee and American Idol. The full line-up will be announced nearer the time.

The plans of the Anaheim Performing Arts Center Fund are no mere pipe dreams. This is one of the most exciting developments to come to Anaheim for many years. You will be able to follow developments on APACs own website. See below.



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