Whether it’s showcasing a well-known entertainer or hosting a community group, the Lancaster Performing Arts Center is the hub of all things artistic in the Antelope Valley.
The center opened its doors in November 1991, and quickly established itself as a major entertainment venue. Owned and operated by the city of Lancaster, LPAC’s chief focus is not only to be a live-arts destination, but also to provide a community service and be an economic driver for the city, says Danise Cardona, marketing coordinator.
“We present entertainment, but we’re also a rental house,” Cardona says. “People can come in and put on their own events. We present various performances throughout the year in numerous genres, including theater, musical theater, concerts, jazz, rock, classical, folk dance, ballet, modern dance … we probably have something going on 360 days a year.”
The center seats 758 and can expand to 794 if necessary, and it’s averaging 52,000 tickets sold per year. It’s home to the Antelope Valley Ballet, Cedar Street Theatre, Acme Acting Company, Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale, and other groups, as well as serving as home base for the Antelope Valley College’s theater and dance departments. It also operates the Arts for Youth program, which provides daytime field-trip performances for area children. Currently 30 shows a year are produced for the program, as well as outreach efforts to the schools themselves.
“We have served more than 25,000 students in a year,” Cardona says. “And many of them were special-needs children. They come from three counties and 10 school districts, as well as private and home schools.”
The center’s Business, Education and Arts Partnership and the Friends of the Lancaster Performing Arts Center Foundation raise money for the program and purchase tickets for some students, with upwards of 3,000 children benefiting from the free admission provided. “Several years ago the state was having a tough time with funding, and the schools said they could afford either the tickets or the bus, so we figured out how we could help get them here,” Cardona says. “Individuals and businesses in our community have very generously given to that program so we can continue to do so.”
Local productions aside, there’s plenty of star power at the LPAC as well. The property was legendary even before the center was built, as it was the site of the valley’s first movie house. Frank Gumm, whose daughter was Judy Garland, owned that building.
Since its inaugural show featuring Henry Mancini, the center has hosted entertainers ranging from Mel Torme to Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher. Jazz pianist Peter Cincotti debuted “I’m Always Watching You” there, having finished the song on his flight to California for the show. “We’re quite proud of it,” Cardona says of the facility. “It’s full steam ahead around here, and our audiences continue to grow. They let us know what they’re interested in experiencing here, and we do our best to accommodate them.”