Nothing beats the excitement of a Broadway show - the lights, the curtains, and the standing ovations. Some of these theaters were built 100 years ago and are seeping with history. But what about the theaters where some Broadway actors have trained? Many colleges and universities across the United States boast state of the art facilities with theaters, recital halls and classrooms to provide the best in education and entertainment. Whether you're a student following your passion or an audience member appreciating the arts, these performing arts centers are nothing short of breathtaking.
The Best College Performing Arts Centers: Top 10 to Experience in the U.S.
Image Credit: Bard.edu
1. Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center - University of Maryland
Hello, Clarice. This Performing Arts Center was named after a Clarice Smith, a University of Maryland alumni and former faculty member. The Clarice opened in 2001 and is now a hub of innovation and possibility by creating the NextNOW, what University of Maryland calls the future of the arts, by educating, training and presenting the next generation of artists and creative innovators. The Clarice breaks through traditional boundaries in art-making and audience development through the culmination of its five partners: The School of Music, The School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies, The National and International Artist Partner Program, The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. Here, you can also catch performances from Grammy-winning vocalist Angélique Kidjo, as well as UMD student performances like the UMD Symphony Orchestra.
Suite 3800, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1625
2. Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts - Bard College
This incredibly unique building was designed by the distinguished architect Frank Gehry, whose other projects include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. When it opened in 2003, the small theatre was named the best small concert hall in the United States by The New Yorker. The Fisher Center is home to the 800-seat Sosnoff Theater, which features a proscenium stage that accommodates opera, music, dance, and theater, the 200-seat LUMA Theater, which hosts performances by students in Bard’s Dance and Theater & Performance Programs, and the Felicitas S. Thorne Dance Studio and the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Theater Studio for students to take classes and rehearse.
60 Manor Avenue
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 12504
3. Weis Center for the Performing Arts - Bucknell University
What makes the Weis Center special compared to other colleges’ performing arts centers is that it not only holds professional and student performances, but also free presentations like yoga. The goal of the Weis Center is to increase involvement in and knowledge of the arts within the University, local community and the region. Catch shows like the musical, Room on the Broom, for ages 3-9, opening in March 2016, or an avant-garde dance performance called Pilobus which has been featured on Oprah and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
1 Dent Drive
Lewisburg, PA 17837
4. Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center - Idaho State University
This $34 million performing arts center was built primarily with the generous support of hundreds of private donors. The state of the art complex spans 123,000-square-foot and debuted in October 2004. Known as the "crown jewel of Pocatello," it's home to the Jensen Grand Concert Hall, the Barbara J. Marshall Rotunda, the Beverly B. Bistline Theatre, and the Rogers Black Box Theatre as well as a costume design studio, set design shop, classrooms and meeting spaces. ISU celebrates the performing arts in Idaho by bringing amazing acts like American Idol Star, David Archuleta, and allows student groups like ISU Women's Choir and Chamber Orchestra to perform in a professional grade facility.
1002 Sam Nixon Ave.
Pocatello, ID 83209
5. Purnell Center of the Arts - Carnegie Mellon
The Purnell Center for the Arts opened in 2000 and is home to the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, one of the most prestigious and oldest collegiate drama programs in the United States. The Purnell Center hosts special events including plays, lectures and more. The Center includes the Philip Chosky Theater, which boasts 430 seats in a proscenium-style space, the Helen Wayne Rauh Studio Theater, a smaller black box theater with 140 seats, and the the John Wells Video Studio, which is exclusively used for sound stage television production. Audiences can watch classics like William Golding's Lord of the Flies or Broadway musicals like The Full Monty, opening in February 2016.
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
6. Valley Performing Arts Center - California State University Northridge
The main stage at the Valley Performing Arts Center has been used by both students and famous performers like Bernadette Peters, Jamie Lee Curtis and the New York Ballet. The $125 million theatre designed as a centerpiece for the university campus opened in January 2011, and is LEED Gold certified. It was recently cited by the LA Times as “a growing hub for live music, dance, drama and other cultural events.” With upcoming performances by Lea Salonga and shows like Dreamgirls, Valley Performing Arts Center is worth a visit!
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8448
7. Rarig Center - University of Minnesota
This performing arts venue on the University of Minnesota campus features four theaters designed by Ralph Rapson, who also designed the partner performance hall Guthrie Theatre. The full-service building includes scenery, property, costume, lighting and sound laboratories, design, voice, and movement studios, ticket and publicity offices, and student lounges and offices. It houses many noteworthy theatres, like the Kilburn Arena Theatre, a 200 seat theatre in the round, and the Whiting Proscenium Theatre, which seats 420 people and hosts shows like Hair and Anything Goes. Its Stoll Thrust Theatre, the largest of the four theatres, seats 460 people and was architecturally designed to mimic the “Alpine Slope." The fourth and final theater of the Rarig Center is the Nolte Xperimental Theatre, a blackbox space.
330 21st Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55455
8. Murchison Performing Arts Center - University of North Texas
This architectural wonder was originally unveiled in 1999 as part of the University of North Texas College of Music. It features two large performance areas including The Margot and Bill Winspear Performance Hall and Lyric Theatre. The expansive Margot and Bill Winspear Performance Hall has been recognized as one of the finest concert halls in the world. The Hall seats 1,025 guests and hosts musical events ranging from Early Music to Jazz. The Lyric Theater features flexible seating, making it both intimate and versatile for theatrical performances as well as an orchestra pit that can accommodate a sixty-piece ensemble.
2100 Interstate 35 Frontage Road
Denton, TX 76266
9. Lied Center for Performing Arts - University of Nebraska, Lincoln
The Lied Center’s mission is to educate, inspire and entertain the people of Nebraska through the performing arts. Beyond the stage, the Lied Center is committed to transforming lives through the power of the arts. In addition to stage performances, most artists who are featured at the Lied work with University of Nebraska students, area youth or the surrounding community. This center has the finest theatre in Nebraska with over 2,000 seats, a flexible black box theatre which seats up to 250 people, and several multi-purpose spaces perfect for receptions, dinners and special events. Upcoming performances at the Lied Center include the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble, Take 6, and the Cornhusker Marching Band.
301 N 12th St.
Lincoln, NE 68508
10. Joseph A. W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center - California State University Fullerton
Lauded as a "world-class learning environment and one of the best arts facilities in the nation," the Joseph A. W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center was renamed in 2008 after a generous $5 million donation by the center's namesake. In addition to classrooms, this performing arts center is also home to the 800-seat Meng Concert Hall, 250-seat Young Theater, and 150-seat blackbox Hallberg Theater. This past year, the Department of Theatre and Dance presented Dancing at Lughnasa and Carrie the Musical, based on the Stephen King novel. California State University Fullerton often hosts guest performances in addition to its student productions such as Alison Edwards, a performing pianist and faculty member.
125 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
This article was written by Lauren Gaw.