Site updated 03/04/14 09:33 AM Upper Dauphin Sentinel ©2006
Smith Center says
possibilities for amphitheater are 'endless'
For project committee co-chairs Carole DeSoto and Marilyn Kauffman, a dream almost a decade in the making is coming true.
‘‘The response of the communities of upper Dauphin County and beyond has been excitement,’’ DeSoto emphasized.
‘‘(The amphitheater) is now a reality begun by a long-ago dream – a dream that would build a home for the art of nationally recognized Ned Smith and would bring artistic performances to the valleys north of Peters Mountain,’’ Kauffman noted.
‘‘There are no other venues of a similar design within a day or two of travel, or that will have the staging components to mount significant performances,’’ she added.
The dedication event is scheduled for Friday, July 25, the first night of the NSCNA’ s annual festival, now in its 21st year.
It will feature performances from the center’s three resident performing companies – the Twin Valley Players, Gamut Theatre and the Pennsylvania Regional Ballet. Special guests will be the musical ensemble Rough Edges.
Additional events for 2014 will be scheduled.
‘‘Location, location, location.’’ The amphitheater is the final component of a master plan for the NSCNA campus conceived more than a decade ago.
‘‘The design was originally conceived along with the design of the first building,’’ Stephen Quiqley, the center’s current executive director, said. ‘‘In fact, the hillside below the building was rough-graded in anticipation of its construction.’’
‘‘(It) will begin at a lower patio and slope down to the woods at creek’s edge, providing a spectacular view,’’ DeSoto noted. ‘‘The Bradenbaugh-Hottenstein Collections Wing and the Grace Pollock Dining Patio complete the framing of the theater.’’
Quigley pointed to ‘‘location, location, location’’ as the venue’s main asset.
‘‘There is no better venue for this amphitheater than having a backdrop of Berry Mountain and the Wiconisco Creek in beautiful Lykens Valley,’’ he said.
“We are within easy driving time of major regional urban centers,’’ Quigley added. ‘‘There is plenty of free parking and our patrons have the opportunity to get out into the country for a time, to enjoy nature and to enjoy the performance of their choice.
‘‘There is extensive artistic talent all around us to be taken advantage of – performance, music, storytelling and more,’’ he said.
Goal: Keeping the stage busy. At this time, the main ‘‘season’’ for events at the amphitheater will be Memorial Day to mid-October. Depending on the weather, events also may be scheduled earlier or later.
Also when weather permits, the venue will be home to the NSCNA’s long-running Arts and Entertainment Series, which features performing artists from both within and outside the region.
Organizers don’t want the stage to be idle.
‘‘There will be a wide array of programming possible, ranging from music, drama and dance to the school educational programs and summer camps that Beth Sanders (the center’s education director) presents throughout the year,’’ DeSoto noted.
‘‘The possibilities of the amphitheater are endless. It is unique to central Pennsylvania,’’ she added.
‘‘My goal is to work with our Arts and Entertainment Committee and our Education Department to fill the season with a variety of programming and to fill the open dates with rentals,’’ Quigley said.
Alexis Dow Campbell, the NSCNA’s current director of creative programming, will oversee the venue, with assistance from the Arts and Entertainment Committee. Eventually, a part-time person to assist Campbell may be hired.
Organizers hope that eventually, the stage can host people with national – or even international – recognition. That said, NSCNA officials want those with more local ties to feel welcome as well.
‘‘The center is already being rented for weddings, receptions, high school dances and reunions. The addition of the amphitheater will enhance all of these and bring in additional revenue to the center,’’ DeSoto said.
Capital campaign raised funds. The cost to design and build the amphitheater was included in a larger five-year capital campaign to raise $4.5 million for a variety of now-completed projects at the center.
Revenue to operate the facility will be generated by ticket sales and sponsorships of various programs held there. The NSCNA also plans to embark on a campaign to develop an endowment fund to help maintain the venue.
The dream for the NSCNA and all its features has been made possible by what Kauffman called the dedication of many different people.
‘‘From the first, small group of dedicated founders to today’s roster of hundreds of volunteers, the continued growth – both of our campus and our mission to merge the arts and the natural world, and foster a celebration of both – has remained at the core of everything we do,’’ she stated.
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