Still fabulous at 40
The Tulsa Performing Arts Center enters its fifth decade of bringing culture to Tulsans.
It’s no secret that the arts bring people together. And no one knows that better than John Scott, director of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, who has been at the helm of the prominent arts organization for 30 of its 40 years.
As the center prepares for its 40th anniversary celebration on March 12, Scott reflects on the impact the PAC has provided to Tulsa and the region over the past four decades.
“Long before oil barons brought wealth and fame to the region, we defined ourselves as a cultural city,” Scott says. “And because of the vision of civic leaders years ago, we have this amazing facility that allows our legacy of cultured sophistication to continue.”
To celebrate this historic milestone, the PAC Trust is presenting a gala performance on March 12 at 7 p.m. The concert will feature jazz vocalist Jane Monheit with Grammy Award-winning trumpet player Nicholas Payton and the Tulsa Symphony.
“But we actually started celebrating last July,” Scott says. “With the launch of the 2016-2017 season, every arts organization was asked to designate at least of one of their performances as a “40th Anniversary Celebration” show.
The Tulsa PAC opened its doors in March 1977. Constructed with what was then a unique combination of public and private funds, the PAC is owned and operated by the City of Tulsa.
“The center was originally intended to provide a modern facility to house local, nonprofit performing arts organizations,” Scott says. “Today, many local arts organizations still utilize the facility, but we also bring in shows from regional and national groups.”
Public funds for building the PAC were provided by a 1973 bond issue. To encourage approval, civic leaders John H. Williams and Leta Chapman posed a challenge to Tulsa citizens. If citizens would vote to fund half of the total cost of a new performing arts center, Williams and Chapman would raise a matching amount in private dollars.
Led by Mayor Robert J. LaFortune, the campaign was a success as voters overwhelmingly approved the challenge and the Tulsa Performing Art Center (nicknamed “Everyone’s Place”) held its first concert on March 19, 1977, featuring the Tulsa Philharmonic and jazz great Ella Fitzgerald.
Since that inaugural concert, the Tulsa PAC has undergone many changes.
“Over the years, our staff has always endeavored to keep the PAC equipped with the latest and best in theater technology,” Scott says. “Patron comfort has been a priority since day one, and we have made many non-visible improvements such as computerized tickets and online ticket purchasing. We were also one of the first arts centers in the country to establish our own website.”
The facility also underwent a major retrofit in the early 1990s to help the PAC become more accessible to people with disabilities. In 2000, the PAC completed an expansion that included an additional studio theater, a large reception hall and an additional suite of restrooms.
The PAC will also receive a makeover during the upcoming summer months. The lobbies of Chapman Music Hall on East Third Street and the other lobbies on East Second Street will receive new carpet, paint, wall coverings, lighting and signage.
“For the first time since the building opened in 1977, all these public spaces will have a cohesive appearance,” Scott says.
Looking ahead to the next 40 years, the Tulsa PAC is actively working to engage younger audiences.
“In this day and age, engaging younger audiences is all about social media,” Scott says. “Younger theatergoers are constantly monitoring the world around them on electronic devices through various social media platforms.”
Scott and his team are working to attract younger patrons more directly by presenting a constant flow of information through social media outlets and encouraging two-way communication.
“Younger audiences are the ticket buyers of tomorrow,” he says. “We want to hear about the programs they want to come to the PAC, and we work closely with all our clients to improve our collective reach in this area.”
In addition to the 40th Anniversary Gala Concert, the PAC offers several more performances to complete its anniversary season.
During the month of April, patrons can look forward to dance troupe Black Grace, the musical “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage” and Tulsa Symphony’s rendition of “A German Requiem” by Johannes Brahms and more.
May brings Theatre Tulsa’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the Tulsa premiere of the Broadway smash “Something Rotten!” and Tulsa Opera’s “Tosca.”
The season closes with the Tulsa Ballet’s “The Snow Queen,” Celebrity Attraction’s presentation of the children’s classic “Matilda The Musical,” Tulsa Project Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and the popular SummerStage Festival.
“The arts have a profound impact on all facets of a community,” Scott says. “We look forward to contributing to Tulsa’s quality of life for many generations to come.”
From world-class ballet to a stimulating lecture series and everything in between, here are organizations that perform at the PAC:
Tulsa Opera • Tulsa Ballet • Tulsa Symphony • Theatre Tulsa • American Theater Co.
Theatre North • Tulsa Town Hall • Chamber Music Tulsa • Choregus Productions
Theatre Pops • Tulsa Project Theatre • Celebrity Attractions
Lights, camera, action!
The Tulsa PAC 40th Anniversary Concert. March 12, 7 p.m. Jane Monheit with Special Guest Nicholas Payton and the Tulsa Symphony. Chapman Music Hall. Tickets are $25, $40, $55 and $90. The $90 VIP ticket price includes prime seating and a post-show reception with the performers.
From New York to Los Angeles — the biggest acts to land in T-Town
• Ella Fitzgerald, inaugural performance at the PAC in 1977
• Luciano Pavarotti, 1981
• Itzhak Perlman, 1994
• Andre Watts, 1989
• Beverly Sills, 2016
• Joshua Bell, 2016
• Michael Buble’, 2006
• Jerry Seinfeld, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014
• Chris Botti, 2007, 2017
• Cathy Rigby, 2005
• Tony Bennett, 2013, 2015
• Steve Martin, 2011
• David Sedaris, 2016, 2009, 2014,
• Kelli O’Hara, 2016
• Judy Collins, 2016
• “The Phantom of the Opera” Set the all-time attendance record of 94,588 with the five-week run in 1996
• “The Book of Mormon”
• “Disney’s The Lion King”
• “Jersey Boys”