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Celebrating Schuster

Year-long celebration to mark 10-year milestone for Dayton arts, cultural landmark

When it comes to the the 10th anniversary of The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, there is much to celebrate.

And that’s exactly what the folks at the Victoria Theatre Association intend to do.

“Four million people have sat in a seat at the Schuster in the past 10 years,” says Ken Neufeld, president and CEO of the VTA and the Arts Center Foundation. “We want to look back and acknowledge the support of those who’ve made the Schuster happen — including Dr. and Mrs. Schuster — and we want to look forward to developing new audiences as well.”

What’s in store is a year of special performances, exhibits, activities and programming — all focused on the magic number 10. A huge new mural will be unveiled in the Wintergarden, a Cheap Seats initiative will offer 10,000 tickets for $10 throughout the year. Individuals and groups in the Miami Valley will have a chance to audition and perform on the Mead Theater stage. As for recruiting future audiences, the VTA will offer 10,000 10-year-olds the chance to see a live performance at no charge.

The highlights:


Five-time Tony award winner Audra McDonald will join members of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for a Gala Concert that will kick off the year-long anniversary celebration on Friday, March 1.

Neufeld says McDonald was chosen because of her broad appeal — she’s well-known to television, Broadway, film and concert audiences. Recently awarded a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” McDonald also has been named host of the Emmy-award winning television series, “Live from Lincoln Center.”

TV fans know her as Dr. Naomi Bennett on “Private Practice,” and “Miss Farrell in the 1999 television remake of “Annie.” McDonald won two Grammy awards for “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,” a political-satirical opera written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.

Tickets to the special evening will go on sale Thursday, Jan. 10.


One of the Miami Valley’s best-known artists has been commissioned to create an “exuberant” giant art installation that will hang in the west lobby of the Wintergarden and will be seen from all three lobby levels. It will be the first piece of permanent art in the venue.

Willis “Bing” Davis will unveil his “Schuster Spirit Dance” at the March 1 gala.

The Wintergarden atrium — which accommodates 1,000 people — regularly plays host to gatherings ranging from weddings to community events.


Many may remember the first community open house held 10 years ago when the building first opened in March 2003. Thousands attended.

A second open house is scheduled for Saturday, March 2, and will include activities ranging from backstage tours of the Mead and Mathile Theatre to kids’ activities, live performances and Citilites cooking demonstrations. The event is free.

Visitors will be taken behind-the-scenes to see some of the technical attractions that make the Schuster so special.

Patrick Keough, production and technical manager for the Victoria Theatre Association, worked at Memorial Hall for 10 years before becoming involved in the designing and planning for the new venue. He says those who have performed at the Schuster over the past 10 years “absolutely love it.”

“Tony Bennett was so impressed that he commented on the acoustics as being one of the best in the world,” Keough recalled. “He sang a capella and was blown away!”

Touring companies, Keogh says, appreciate everything from the three loading docks that can accommodate multiple trucks to the easy stage access.


Groups and individuals from throughout the region are invited to audition for a talent competition, with winners performing on the Mead Theatre stage on Sept. 13. Preliminary auditions will begin in August, with semi-finals and finals on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

It’s free to audition; tickets to the finals are $10.


Neufeld says the VTA hopes to make attending an arts performance in downtown Dayton as affordable as possible and is offering 10,000 seats for $10. Most of the shows will be held in the Mead Theatre; select performances, concerts and events presented by resident companies also qualify along with some performances at the Victoria Theatre. To enroll in the program and receive notifications about the $10 tickets, visit and sign up for the monthly e-mail. Tickets must be purchased via through a special link, and there is a $2 per order fee. Sponsor is The Dayton Power & Light Company Foundation.


Live performances of “The Mayhem Poets” will be offered to 10,000 area students at no charge in May through partnerships with area school districts.

The New Jersey-based slam poetry group uses hip-hop rhythms, improv, stand-up comedy to inspire audiences to create and perform original poetry. As part of the project, teachers in the area will also be provided with professional development workshops. The goal is to use the live performances as a motivational learning took to improve reading, writing and the arts in the classrooms of 10-year-olds.


Neufeld, who says programs and artists for the Schuster 10th anniversary will be added throughout the year, believes the Schuster Center “has exceeded all expectations” over the past 10 years.

“The glass walls were designed so that people driving by can see how inviting it is,” he says. “There’s been a concerted effort to make it a comfortable place to come and see shows. The idea is that it will be the community’s living room, a place where people can come to interact.”

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