Kent Tusc’s PAC reaches into the community

Kent Tusc’s PAC reaches into the community
                        

The ability to draw world-renowned acts like Jay Leno, B.B. King and Kenny Rogers to perform in New Philadelphia is just one benefit of having a modern, 1,089-seat performing arts center in town. But the real value of the Kent State University at Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center (PAC) may be the educational opportunities the center has made available to area students, suggested David Mitchell, general manager of the facility.

“I am most proud and excited about the educational outreach we provide,” Mitchell said, emphasizing that the center reaches around 10,000 students each year with some form of educational programming.

On Thursday, December 2, Leno, the popular comedian and former Tonight Show host, will headline the celebration of the PAC’s 11th anniversary of service to Tuscarawas and surrounding counties. Leno originally was booked to perform at the center’s milestone 10th anniversary last year, but the event was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Unfortunately for those of you who have yet to score tickets, Leno’s performance and after-party quickly sold out. But there will be plenty of highlights in store for next year, Mitchell promised.

The PAC was conceived more than 11 years ago, Mitchell explained.

“There was a discussion in the community about the need for such a facility on the university campus,” he said. “At the time, the conversation was about a 300- to 500-seat venue, but Greg Andrews – the dean at the time – insisted on more than 1,000 seats to draw Broadway tours and other big events. People were shocked at first, but he was able to convince them about the larger facility, and, with the help of the community, they got it built.”

Since then, the PAC has served as the home of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic while hosting a variety of concerts and theater productions.

“In addition, the center has become a community gathering place,” Mitchell said. “We play host to weddings, school proms, business meetings and expos. Many of our activities are related to the arts, but not always. We have a lot of things happening here all the time.” But the arts-education link, he said, has been an essential part of the PAC’s focus – whether programs bring students to the PAC or the PAC goes out to the students.

“We do a lot of outreach where we take artists – sometimes those who are booked to perform here – out into the community schools,” Mitchell said. “Since I’ve been here in 2016, we’ve taken artists out into 31 schools representing nine school districts and have connected artists with more than 9,500 students from elementary school to high school.”

As an example, he pointed out, in October, local high school students had the opportunity to meet, learn from and perform alongside the a cappella vocal group, The House Jacks, who gave a concert that evening.

“With our Class Acts Series where students visit the PAC for a performance, for many of them it’s the first time that they’ve ever seen a live performance in a professional theater,” Mitchell said. “It’s really special to be able to give them that experience. Part of our goal is to remove the financial barriers that make that possible. We want to be accessible to everybody, so we offer performances for a dollar per ticket to school districts and homeschooled populations. We have to subsidize the cost, but we think this is important work that we need to do. If we weren’t doing these programs, they probably wouldn’t happen at all.”

Along with the education programs, Mitchell said he is proud to be able to bring headline acts and Broadway shows to the New Philadelphia area.

“People would normally need to drive two hours to see some of the entertainment we bring here,” Mitchell said. Among the upcoming performances are Grammy Award winners Ricky Skaggs and Richard Marx, and Summer – the Donna Summer Musical.

The PAC relies on donations, grants and sponsors – like AloNovus – to fund its educational programming.

You can view the schedule of upcoming events and learn more about the Kent State University Tuscawaras Performing Arts Center by visiting Kent.edu/tuscpac. The center is located at 330 University Drive NE, in New Philadelphia. You can call the PAC at 330-308-6400.


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