Performing Arts Center at 30: ‘Most small communities don’t have what we have’

Clark State’s reveals first two shows for anniversary season.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Reaching age 30 is a landmark some people don’t look forward to. One Springfield venue’s staff can hardly wait to hit that target.

The Clark State Performing Arts Center (PAC) will celebrate its 30th anniversary throughout the upcoming 2023-2024 season, which will begin in late September. Although the show slate is being finalized and will be available in a few weeks, Executive Director Dan Hunt is eager to build the excitement early so everyone is ready when tickets go on sale in mid-July.

Credit: Darren Thomas

Credit: Darren Thomas

He said to expect a variety of entertainment, including a country music legend, a classic play, comedy, southern rock, acrobats and Broadway musicals, but he revealed two of the big shows.

The PAC loves to celebrate the holidays and on Nov. 28, Santa’s sleigh will take a trip south of the border for A Mariachi Christmas. This Grammy-nominated group will perform Mexican and American Christmas songs in Mariachi style.

After last season’s “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” will be another show with that flavor as the 360 ALLSTARS perform on Feb. 4. Hunt describes it as an urban Cirque du Soleil, with a combination of BMX bikers, breakdancers, beatboxers and a cast of world champion and record-holding athletes and artists that has sold out shows internationally.

“We’re trying to reach out to different segments of the community, to complement the Springfield Arts Council and Springfield Symphony Orchestra to make a great season,” Hunt said. “We want to celebrate what we’ve done best for 30 years – to present great shows.”

Although many of the those who helped get the PAC built back in the early 1990s have passed, Hunt is honored to be one of those there from the beginning. He recalls with fondness the gala opening night of Nov. 6, 1993, hosted by Oscar- and Tony Award-winning star Joel Grey and Oscar nominee Teri Garr with the crowd in black tie and formals, including choirs and herald trumpets that gave the audience chills.

“We love the mission of what we’ve done and look at building this downtown as one of the those first instrumental decisions in the revival of downtown Springfield. Most small communities don’t have what we have with the Performing Arts Center,” said Hunt.

In the years since its opening, the PAC has weathered challenging economic times, various entertainment trends, the COVID pandemic and now is building back from it, ready for the future.

“Our founding fathers would be really happy with where we are. We’re talking about a history of great shows and from where we came, and we hope for at least another 30 years and beyond,” Hunt said.

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