State Playhouse Re-Opening Celebration

Dean Linda Essig at podium on stage of State Playhouse
On November 5, I had the honor of standing on the stage of the historic State Playhouse as we celebrated its re-opening following a significant renovation. Here is what I said:

The mission of Cal State LA is to transform lives and cultivate and amplify our students’ unique talents. In the College of Arts & Letters, we do that through the study and practice of the arts and humanities. The State Playhouse stage is where much of that practice happens – especially for our students in Music, Theatre and Dance. Through a transformative gift from the Ahmanson Foundation, our students will be able to partake in experiential learning opportunities in a facility that reflects what they will find beyond the borders of the campus. These opportunities help pave the pathway not only for our students’ academic success, but for their professional success as well. A recent survey of 500 CEOs and hiring managers indicates that the higher education learning outcomes they value the most highly are the very learning outcomes of the College of Arts & Letters: Oral communication, ethical decision making, written communication, and the ability to work in teams -- collaboration. As a theatre artist and educator, I know of no better way to teach and learn collaboration than through the practice of the performing arts: music, theatre, and dance. 

I arrived at Cal State LA and began my position here in the College of Arts & Letters on July 1 of this year. It is a phenomenal opportunity for a new dean to be able to walk into a renovation in progress. I want to acknowledge the work of my predecessor, interim dean Rennie Schoepflin, the advancement team, the group at Facilities, Planning and Construction, and our internal team in the College of Arts & Letters: the staff of A&L Productions and the faculty and staff of the departments of Music and Theatre & Dance. 

On a personal note, as a lifelong “theatre person,” I share how gratified and affirming it felt to learn that the State Playhouse, the building we are in right now was the very first building on this campus – it is building number 1. I knew I was in the right place when I learned that when Cal State LA chose where to break ground, it was on the theatre building. And now I can physically be a part of this building – and so can you. There are 258 seatbacks in the State Playhouse. You can name one of them and you too can have your name inside the first building built on this campus. I’ve already made a commitment to support the experiential learning our students undertake on this stage, so now there are only 257 seats remaining. It’s easy! Your $500 seat naming gift supports the future of performing arts education at Cal State LA. So, join me!

Newly Renovated State Playhouse
The potential impact of your gift is best viewed through the eyes of our students. You heard stories from Jose about some of our alumni. Damaris VizVett is a current student, a theatre major and national finalist in the August Wilson Monologue Competition. She writes:

The State Playhouse was the first place I ever performed on campus. I remember auditioning on stage as a freshman, being intimidated by its size and history, wondering if I would ever be good enough to work and perform on such a grand stage. 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. This place has become home for me, and that's more than I could have ever asked for. 

I couldn’t have said it better. Again, heartfelt gratitude to the Ahmanson Foundation for making these student experiences possible and thank you to all of you for being here tonight.

Click here to read more about the State Playhouse grand re-opening. 
Photo Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA