VPAC seeks to make schedule more attractive to students

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VPAC seeks to make schedule more attractive to students

Champaign Williams

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Students walk past the lit Valley Performing Arts Center at night. This week, the VPAC encouraged students to attend a Bela Fleck and Brooklyn Rider concert, offering them two free tickets via email. (Photo credit: David Hawkins / Photo Editor)

The building can be seen from across campus. It’s several stories tall. Its structure is encased in 30,000 square feet of glass. There’s no way to miss it. So why is student attendance at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) performances so low?

Maureen Rubin, VPAC public and community relations manager, said that out of the $2.2 million tickets sold at the box office last year, an average 5 percent were rush tickets purchased by students and faculty.

“This really is a shame because it shows that students, faculty and staff are not taking advantage of an amazing opportunity to see world-class entertainment for a pittance,” Rubin said.

Rush tickets can be purchased 24 hours before any performance at $12 for students and $17 for faculty. Rubin said this is one of the best deals in town.

“(The tickets are) way less expensive than a movie with popcorn, and for most students, closer as well so they won’t have to pay for gas,” Rubin said.

Chris Hiortdahl, senior anthropology major, said he was unaware that the VPAC offered rush tickets to students at such a low price.

“It’s awesome, and a great incentive to get the student body involved,” Hiortdahl said. “We’re all college students and we’re all broke, so it makes sense. It’s a great marketing idea.”

Hiortdahl added that he does have an interest in the performances at the VPAC, but that most of the acts he’s been interested in conflict with his schedule.

“This coming Feb. 7, the world’s best banjo players are coming to play,” Hiortdahl said. “But when I saw that, I was (kind of frustrated) because I couldn’t go.”

Earlier this week an email was distributed to the campus community offering two free tickets to see grammy-award winner Bela Flak, one of the world’s best banjo players, according to his VPAC biography. Flak will be performing alongside the string quartet Brooklyn Rider.

In an effort to invite more acts that students are interested in, VPAC interim executive director Steven Thachuk has been speaking with students around campus and in his music courses to gauge the types of performances they would be most interested in attending.

“I’m more concerned with having the students take an interest in the center than strictly having the acts appeal to them,” Thachuk said. “There will have to be a balance between things that are automatically recognizable and events that will pique their interest or engage them. One thing I’ve heard is that people would like comedians and some speakers, which we are addressing right now.”

The VPAC announced Wednesday that Thachuk’s tenure as interim executive director will end on March 1. The university has confirmed the permanent executive VPAC director to be Thor Steingraber.

Steingraber served as the vice president for programming at The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles from 2011-2013 and has years of experience in stage directing and production. He will begin his new position starting March 1.

While Thachuk and VPAC personnel want students to take a greater interest in the performances offered, they said it’s difficult because the venue was not built to seat a massive amount of people.

“The VPAC isn’t really set up to have major pop acts like people would assume we should have,” Thachuk said. “Many of the suggestions (from students) are for acts who play (venues seating) 10,000 plus, and these artists would not play the VPAC on their normal tours. It’s just the economics of it.”

Performances at the VPAC are booked more than a year in advance in order to compensate touring schedules.

“Lots of people have contracts where if you played in L.A., you can’t play in another L.A. venue for (a certain) amount of time,” Rubin said.

Rubin compares the booking process to fitting puzzle pieces together and said it is not as simple as people may assume. In order to book a performer, Rubin said the staff must also consider if the size of the VPAC, which seats 1,700 people, will suit the performance.

“It’s like a match game, you know,” Rubin said. “There’s lots of fill-in-the-blanks (to put together) a season.”

Jacob Deubner, senior history major, transferred to CSUN as a junior two years ago and has yet to see a performance at the VPAC.

“I’ve got two kids at home and I’m married,” Deubner said. “So I don’t always have a lot of time.”

Although the rush tickets are only $12 for students, Deubner stressed the fact that he is still unable to afford the regular priced tickets for his wife and children to attend.

“Since my wife is the only one working right now, $60 for her to go to a performance is kind of expensive,” Deubner said. “That’s one thing my wife and I try to do. At least once a month we try to have a date night, and that would be a great date, but you know dinner and a show would be kind of expensive.”

The VPAC is entering the second half of its third year, and anticipates making $2.4 million in revenue this 2013-2014 season.

“We generally sell out a few times a season,” Rubin said. “This year, we sold out David Sedaris, Josh Turner and Bernadette Peters. (The best performance for this year) I would have to say was the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. Entire families came from all over the Valley and they were literally dancing in the aisles.”

This year’s season will continue this semester with varied performances by musicians, thespians and dancers alike. The Class in the Courtyard, a pre-concert lecture that began last semester and takes place once a month, will continue this semester as well. Students, faculty and staff who purchase rush tickets to the shows offering Classroom in the Courtyard can attend the pre-concert lectures for free.

“We’re always looking for ways to tie (performances) in to what students are studying,” Rubin said. “It’s very interesting. We go to the English department and every possible department that could have a link. I send special things to Pan African Studies, to Chicano/a Studies, to Women’s Studies, anytime there’s something that I think will cater to them. We really wish more people will take advantage of the opportunity.”

Chelsea Anderson, junior deaf studies major, said she has never been to the Great Hall in the VPAC before, but hopes to do so in the future.

“I haven’t been to the (Great Hall) because the shows I was required to see for my theater class were in the Plaza del Sol or the little (theater),” Anderson said. “I am really interested in theater though, so I probably will go there sometime. I just haven’t been there yet.”

Rubin said she was also surprised that most students are not aware of the discounted tickets available before performances for the CSUN community.

“(If) you have a date on Saturday night and you live in the residence halls, it’s $24 if you want to take a date (to a show),” Rubin said. “Why wouldn’t you come here?”