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Arts and Culture

Mountain View Center for the Performing ArtsWant proof of the celestial beauty of theater? Look no further than the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Major star power has graced its stages since the doors opened 25 years ago. Celebrity performers include Audra MacDonald, Robert Redford, Al Gore, Della Reese, Paula Poundstone, “Wicked” creator Stephen Schwartz and a slew of award winners and Tony nominees.

That’s just part of the reason why more than 170,000 people visit the Silicon Valley theater annually. In 2014-15, the venue put on about 400 performances with an annual operating budget of only $1.5 million.

The theater is located at 500 Castro St. in Mountain View – just 40 miles south of San Francisco. Because it is a more modern facility, it is fully accessible and offers services such as assistive listening systems, which help patrons who are hearing impaired.

“I don’t think anyone fully realized what was started back in the late 1980s when the city of Mountain View decided to dedicate part of its new Civic Center Complex to the arts,” Executive Director W. Scott Whisler wrote. “But those visionaries knew that however it evolved, a public

theater space would be important to the economic and cultural wellbeing of the newly redeveloped downtown, as well as to the surrounding community and region.”

The center is operated by the City of Mountain View – specifically, its Community Services Department. MVCPA offers performance art, dance, both classical and modern music and theater productions. In addition, it hosts visual arts displays, films, corporate promotions,

festivals, high-profile meetings and lectures. It also was the site of the first reading and first full production of Tony Award-winning (Best New Musical) “Memphis.”

In hopes of cultivating a future generation of arts appreciators, MVCPA offers children’s shows, too. 2016 titles included James and the Giant Peach Seussical: The Musical and the popular “Stories on Stage,” which brings adaptations of popular children’s books to the stage.

The venue prides itself on nurturing local partnerships with organizations and schools like Pacific Ballet Academy, Western Ballet and Bayer Ballet – companies that inspire a passion for dance in Silicon Valley’s youth.

The Center also hosts two home companies: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley and Peninsula Youth Theatre. These arts organizations perform a significant portion of their seasons in MVCPA theaters and contribute to the overall success of the venue, according to officials.

The Center has a trio of performance locations referred to in-house as MainStage, SecondStage and ParkStage. MainStage is the largest theater, offering 600 seats in a proscenium-style design to offer unobstructed views and a seating plan that minimizes theater depth so all patrons feel close to the action: the last row is only 68 feet from the stage. This stage also features nine removable trap pieces that assist with such awesome illusions as, say, witches melting.

In 2013, this theater received a facelift that included new seats and carpeting – a first since it opened. “Millions of patrons attending thousands of events since the 1991 opening day had made their mark,” Whisler remarked at the time. “Now our newly-updated amenities are ready to welcome millions more.”

Strips of blue ribbons that dance across the ceiling serve not only as sculptures but, more importantly, as acoustical panels to optimize the theater’s sound. Other special features include three lifts and movable splay walls.

For smaller productions or even group events or meetings, SecondStage is ideal. Octagonal in shape and with a three-quarter thrust seating configuration, the theater can seat 150-200 and offers movable seats and risers so that the space can shift to suit various shows’ needs. One day, it’s a cabaret – the next, a theater-in-the-round. Lastly is ParkStage, a casual amphitheater with lawn seating for up to 300 people. It’s here that you’ll find free, 45minute summertime shows put on in partnership with Peninsula Youth Theatre’s summer camp program. The stories change weekly but are based on fairy tales and other children’s stories.

The theater is a well oiled machine that functions with a small paid staff and, like many arts programs, relies heavily on volunteers. About 325 folks volunteer as ushers. “We are so lucky to have our volunteer usher crew who gave us 12,869 volunteer hours in 2015,” said Liz Nelson, ticket services manager. “We couldn’t do it without them.”Del inisto optiissitio beate quam aut estistet, officilique num hiliquia parchicae rehenducium quos periati untiis quis ducius volupta temporem voluptae.

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