By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service
Cal State LA reopened the State Playhouse with an elegant evening event celebrating the historic building and its role in providing arts and culture to the university and the communities it serves.
The Ahmanson Foundation provided a transformative gift that enabled the university to revitalize the State Playhouse with new seating, floor finishes and paint, as well as the latest audio, video, sound and lighting equipment. The gift, part of We Are LA: The Campaign for Cal State LA, will help the university promote a robust learning environment for students in the performing arts.
“The impact of the State Playhouse extends far beyond Cal State LA,” President William A. Covino said to the crowd gathered inside the theatre for the Nov. 5 reopening. “The State Playhouse has a history of serving the community, of being open and accessible, inviting greater numbers of people to enjoy the arts.”
Built in 1958, the State Playhouse is one of the oldest buildings at the university. The theatre was constructed as a performance venue to showcase works of art by students, but over the years its audience has grown beyond the boundaries of the university.
Each year more than 25,000 students and community residents enjoy art and performances in the theatre. In its decades-long history, the State Playhouse has enriched the cultural landscape of the communities served by Cal State LA.
Faculty, staff, students, alumni and other university supporters who attended the celebration enjoyed remarks by university leaders and performances by students in a jazz combo led by Grammy Award-winning faculty member James Ford.
“Through the incredible generosity of the Ahmanson family, our students will be able to partake in experiential learning opportunities in a facility that reflects what they will find beyond the border of the campus,” College of Arts and Letters Dean Linda Essig said.
Essig announced that guests can give $500 to name one of the theatre’s seats to support of the future of performing arts education at Cal State LA.
The faculty of the university’s College of Arts and Letters, many of whom are nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, are committed to nurturing the next generation of actors, dancers, designers, musicians and scholars.
José Cruz González, a professor of theatre arts and an esteemed playwright, talked about the college’s legacy of distinguished faculty, including his mentor, former Cal State LA professor and alumnus Jorge Huerta. He was the first Chicano student in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in theatre. González recounted Huerta’s memories of his days at the university.
“Dr. Huerta recalls, ‘I owe my life to Cal State LA because it prepared me. Those were my formative years. There were brilliant teachers, some of them also scholars and artists. They taught me to respect the art form. They taught me to inquire. I learned how to teach at Cal State LA.’ ”
Essig also shared reflections from students who have performed on the theatre’s stage throughout the building’s 60-year history.
“The State Playhouse became a safe haven for me, it’s where I met my closest friends, where I was challenged as an artist, where I’ve done some of my best work. The State Playhouse is a place of exploration, collaboration, artistry, passion, and most of all, love,” wrote Damaris Vizvett, a theatre major and national finalist in the August Wilson Monologue Competition. “This place has become home for me, and that’s more than I could have ever asked for.”
Photos: Above, A jazz combo of student musicians directed by Cal State LA faculty member James Ford performs at the reopening celebration. Middle, Cal State LA faculty member José Cruz González addresses the crowd. Bottom, A view inside the newly renovated and reopened State Playhouse. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.