By CYNTHIA G. ROBERTSON
The brand-new Performing and Visual Arts Center (PVAC) at Grossmont College has been lying in wait for the bustle of live concerts, dances, plays and other events. That time has finally arrived, 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $44 million PVAC building broke ground in 2017 and held its ribbon-cutting on May 20,2021. The 39,000-square-foot facility will serve as an instructional and performance venue for the theater, dance and music programs, and also is the new home for the Hyde Art Gallery. The 53-foot-tall structure is the tallest instructional facility on campus with a 390-seat multipurpose theater replete with one of the largest stages in the county, an orchestra pit and balcony. With dressing rooms, a green room, a costume area and a makeup classroom, it will serve as a learning laboratory for student performers, technicians and designers in the Theatre Arts program.
Grossmont College’s Stagehouse Theatre, housed within the center, kicked off its 2021-22 season on Sept. 30 with a staging of “Into the Woods” — the theater’s first performances to a live audience since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The faculty and staff of the Grossmont College Theatre Arts Department are excited to welcome back students and members of the community as we engage in our first production at the Stagehouse Theatre since March of 2020,” said Theatre Arts Department co-chair Katie Banville.
The safety of students, faculty, classified professionals, and the public is paramount, so a number of COVID-19 protocols have been instituted.
“Most of all, we are thrilled to give our students and patrons the opportunity to reconnect in a shared space as we return to the magical experience that is live, in-person performance,” Banville said.
“Into the Woods” is an epic Grimm Brothers fairytale about a baker and his wife who wish to have a child; Cinderella who hopes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse. Everyone’s wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them with disastrous results. The story is about the wishes people have, the importance of family, and the choices we make.
“Into the Woods” wraps up its two-week run with performances on Oct. 6, 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. at a cost ranging from $10 to $16.
Just one week after the last performance of “Into the Woods,” the inspiring tale of “Sugar and Seeds,” based on an ancient Buddhist legend of the mustard seed, will have two productions on Oct. 16. The story is a celebration of the fragile and sacred moments we all share with those we love.
The college’s Dance Department will also be offering a performance this fall semester. “We are planning to hold our student choreographed production, titled ‘Breaking Boundaries’ live and in-person,” said Dance Department faculty member David Mullen. The dates scheduled for that production are Nov. 18–20 at 7:30 p.m.
On Oct. 7, the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra (GSO) played its first concert in the PVAC — its new and long awaited home. The 70-member orchestra and 40-member choral ensemble composed of students, teachers and musicians from the community have played since the ‘80s off campus, first at the former East County Performing Arts Center in El Cajon until 2009, then the First Presbyterian Church of El Cajon, Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley and St. John of the Cross Catholic Church in Lemon Grove.
The GSO’s innagural performance in its new venue included separate performances of the symphony’s brass and percussion, woodwind and string ensembles; the Master Chorale; and a multimedia performance of the chamber orchestra. In pre-pandemic times, the ensembles performed as one large orchestra, but because of Grossmont College’s COVID-19 protocols limiting the numbers of people in one room, the performance was broken up with each ensemble giving its own mini-concert.
“This 390-seat venue has been a part of the original blueprint for Grossmont College from the earliest years,” said music director Randall Tweed, who has been at GSO’s helm for 35 years. “It has been a long, arduous road. This new facility is a huge step up and being able to return for in-person rehearsals, even with social distancing and masking, has been great.”
GSO’s concert season for the rest of the year includes performances on Oct. 28, Dec. 2, and Dec. 10.
“By fall of next year, we will be a beacon for East County arts,” Tweed said, adding that plans are in place to make Nutcracker performances partnering the GSO and the San Diego Ballet an annual winter tradition starting in 2022.
Visitors to the PVAC won’t have to wait until next fall for the privilege of viewing art exhibits at the new Hyde Art Gallery. Located within the Center, running through Oct. 21, 2021, the current exhibit is a campus-wide showcase of artwork produced during the pandemic by the faculty and staff.
“During this past year and a half, we’ve all been subjected to feelings of isolation and cynicism, but art and design often provided that crucial alternative outlet for expressing and detailing our unique experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gallery Director Alex DeCosta.
Traditionally, the first exhibition of the fall semester is the Visual Arts and Humanities Department’s faculty and staff exhibition, but this semester the Hyde Art Gallery has invited the entire Grossmont community to participate in sharing this distinctive body of work created during an ongoing health crisis against the background of socio-political upheaval.
Typically most exhibitions will be static fine art works of varying mediums. “We’ve occasionally hosted spoken word poets, smaller musical concerts, artist lectures, and artist workshops that run concurrent to whatever exhibition is on display,” DeCosta said.
Students learning remotely, faculty and staff operating remotely, and the general public can request an appointment to view the exhibition. Proof of vaccination must be shown. To schedule a visit, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For theater and dance presentations, all guests must show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the performance. Masks are required. Because social distancing will be in effect, tickets will be limited. Box office hours are Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Further information is available by calling (619) 644-7267.
For more information about Grossmont College performing and visual arts, contact David Ogul, Interim Director of College and Community Relations by calling 619-644-7840 or email email@example.com.
— A journalist and photographer for more than 30 years, Cynthia G. Robertson is the author of “Where You See Forever,” a novel set in San Diego about finding a home for the heart. She also authors a blog at www.shutterbug-angel.blogspot.com, a unique devotional attesting to the everyday miracles and beauty she sees in nature around her. She is currently working on other books. See more of Cynthia’s work and order her book at www.cynthiarobertson.com.