Located in the heart of Beverly Hills as the cornerstone of the golden triangle, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis) officially opens its doors to the public on October 15-18, 2013 with a dedication ceremony and a series of Galas, followed by programming beginning November 8 with the Martha Graham Dance Company.
This new venue transforms a Beverly Hills city block, facing Santa Monica Boulevard, between Crescent and Canon Drives, into the first performing arts center to be built there: a vibrant arts destination and a major cultural and education hub for audiences of every age, with two distinct, elegant buildings: the renovated historic 1934 Italianate-style Beverly Hills Post Office (now the Paula Kent Meehan Historic Building) and the new, contemporary 500-seat, state-of-the-art Bram Goldsmith Theater.
Together, these two structures embrace the city’s history and future, creating a new artistic and visual landmark, and an entryway into Beverly Hills’ fabled shopping district. Within the treasured Post Office, existing spaces are transformed into the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater, a theater school for young people (opening in 2014), a café and gift shop.
For its Inaugural Season, The Wallis will produce and present theater, music and dance, special exhibitions, as well as programming for the family audience, with the participation of established stage artists Mark Brokaw, Leonard Foglia, Ricky Ian Gordon, Frederica von Stade, Maurice Hines, Marsha Norman, Jason Robert Brown, Emma Rice, Harry Gregson-Williams, and England’s Kneehigh Theatre.
Wallis Annenberg said, “Beverly Hills has always held a special place in my heart. It has long been my home and I was fortunate to have raised my children here. My father’s greatest legacy to me is a love for the arts and an appreciation for their impact and value in each of our lives. I am proud to be part of the artistic vision that the Center embodies.”
PROGRAMMING AT THE WALLIS
In this inaugural season, the programming celebrates the transformation of the Post Office and its return to public use as well as the community’s influence past and present – and includes the participation of stage artists Mark Brokaw, Leonard Foglia, Ricky Ian Gordon, Frederica von Stade, Maurice Hines, Marsha Norman, Jason Robert Brown, Emma Rice, Harry Gregson-Williams, and the Kneehigh Theatre.
The first season opens with Martha Graham Dance Company (November 8 – 9, 2013). Graham began her dance training in Los Angeles, and went on to change the idea of what dance could be. Her company will present Chronicle, considered a masterwork that was created in Los Angeles in the 1930’s when the post office was being built.
Following Graham, the Wallis is producing Parfumerie, adapted by E.P. Dowdall, from the Hungarian play Illatszertar by Miklos Laszlo and directed by Mark Brokaw (November 26 – December 22, 2013), performing during the holidays. The play centers on a romance conducted through love letters, which is a perfect homage to the Post Office and to Hollywood having inspired the films The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail. From February 23 – March 23, 2014, The Wallis presents the highly
acclaimed Kneehigh Theater production of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, an international sensation that will have its Los Angeles premiere. The chamber opera A Coffin in Egypt, composed by Ricky Ian Gordon with libretto and direction by Leonard Foglia, is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera and Opera Philadelphia. Based on a Horton Foote play, it will have its West Coast premiere (April 23 – 27, 2014) and stars beloved mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.
The programming has been planned with the intention of deepening the audience experience and engage guests on many levels. As a special program, an exhibition on perfume entitled Timeless Scents: 1370-2013, a history of iconic fragrances through the ages is being created especially for The Wallis by Chandler Burr, former New York Times scent critic, and will complement performances of Parfumerie. Brief Encounter is complemented by Love, Noël: The Letters and Songs of Noël Coward (February 20 – 22, 2014) performed in the Lovelace Studio Theatre.
Later in the season, Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal (January 10-11, 2014), The Trumpet of the Swan (May 2 – 4, 2014), a novel symphony for actors and orchestra, adapted from the E.B. White novel by Marsha Norman and with music by Jason Robert Brown (May 2 – 4), Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life (May 9 – 24), and Jessica Lang Dance (May 30 – 31, 2014) will be presented. The Sundance Institute Film Music Program Event ComposersLAB LA On Stage: An Afternoon with Harry Gregson-Williams (March 30, 2013) and Baseball Swing with The All-Star Baseball Jazz Band (April 4 – 6, 2014) with participation from the National Baseball Hall of Fame will also be presented.
Introducing children to live theatre is a major component of the programming, including work that is appropriate for the youngest theatergoers, ages 2-5. These shows will have extended runs and children even have the opportunity to have their own subscriptions. This year, the Wallis is bringing two productions – Jason and the Argonauts from Visible Fictions (January 16 – February 2, 2014) and White from Catherine Wheels Theatre Company (February 26 – March 23, 2014) — from Scotland, a country known worldwide for its high quality professional theater for young people.