Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Sneak Peek at the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts

The October issue of D Magazine will primarily focus on the grand opening of the new Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. In case you've been living under a rock, let me fill you in on what this is all about. For the last four years, bulldozers, architects and construction workers have been hard at work constructing the largest arts district this side of the Mississippi. This new campus will house the new Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theater along with a few smaller projects.

The project is already world-famous for its fundraising accomplishments led by Bill Lively. By groundbreaking in 2005 the campaign totals exceeded $200 million, including 80 gifts of $1 million or more (think about that for a second). In August 2007 The Center raised its 100th gift of $1 million or more making it the first campaign for cultural facilities in the history of the United States to do so.

In order to get a better understanding and create a sense of "passion" and excitement for this project, our office went on a field trip Friday to check out the DCPA. I have to tell you - it's impressive. Our tour guide spouted off a lot of facts and figures and talked about awards and recognitions (blah, blah, blah). Let me just break it down for you with some of the points I found interesting:

First of all, can I just point out that I look pretty good in a hard hat.

This is the Winspear Opera House. The Winspear family donated $42 million dollars to earn this naming right. You think their kids are pissed that they gave away all that money? I'm just saying... You see the red glass tiles on the top of the building. They wrap around the exterior of the House and can be found inside also. It's a very dramatic effect.

This is the Wyly Theater and it will be the new home of the Dallas Theater Center. The Wyly's got off easy and only had to donate $10 million to get a building named after them. You think the Winspear's are mad that they gave $42 million and these people just gave $10 and got a building named after them? I'm just saying... The outside consists of 100 ft. tall aluminum poles in varying diameters "to give the effect of hung curtains".

As you can see, the Wyly Theater has a very industrial feel. Lots of steel and cement. The walls of the staircase were lined with metallic chain mail, so when you walked up the stairs you could run your hands along the wall and it moved with you. That was cool. It holds about 565 people.

This glass wall backdrop can be left exposed so people on the street can see the performances inside or the glass can be electronically shaded to various degrees - even to a complete blackout.

The floors and sides of the building can all be moved on hydro lifts to make them go up or down, extend out or pull in to be completely hidden. The makes the configuration of the theater almost endless in possibility. Even if you have season tickets, your seat will never be in the same place because the theater will be configured different for almost every performance. I thought that was cool.

This is the inside of the Winspear Opera House. The most interesting thing about this venue (to me) was the fact that all of the balconies are plated in 12k gold - you can see the in this picture. Yep, you read right. Real gold. So do not put your feet up on the railings and scratch them or it will be expensive to repair!

The interior is a lot of glass and steel and it's very open. A grand staircase winds around the three levels creating plazas and "see and be seen" areas for poseurs.

Outside the Winspear Opera House is where the outdoor performance area will be and some fountains and other pretty landscaping. The Opera House will house a full service cafe and restaurant that will be open all the time for people who wish to come or who work Downtown.

Walking the grounds, I found it almost impossible to imagine that they will be ready to debut the center in October. There is much to be done, but what they have already accomplished is nothing short of breathtaking. I cannot wait to see the finished product.
Now, I just gotta figure out how to wrangle me few of those Grand Opening invitations... and what could I wear... Hmmmm. I'll keep you posted!