Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dallas raises curtain on (another) performance hall - WFAA

by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on September 16, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Updated today at 10:48 PM

DALLAS â€" This weekend, a series of concerts and performances ushered in the opening of the new Dallas City Performance Hall.

Yet the $40 million auditorium has raised questions over its size and whether the local arts scene can support yet another performance hall.

"Right now, it's a gamble," conceded Candace Bawcombe, artistic director of Dallas Chamber Music. The organization has been bringing renowned musical acts to Dallas for 68 years.

But Dallas Chamber Music â€" along with other groups â€" pushed in early design stages for a smaller venue.

"We don't have that ability to fill a 700-seat hall for a chamber music concert, in my opinion," Bawcombe said.

For years, arts groups have expressed concern about filling the 750-seat auditorium â€" or affording the rental fee of at least $1,400 a day.

"That remains to be seen," said Jac Alder, director of Dallas’ Theatre Three, and who advised the city on the new hall.

“It’s going to have some successes, but it’s also going to have some failures,” he said.

The new performance hall enters a crowded stage of auditoriums across Dallas â€" some of which are already struggling in an uncertain economy. The Dallas City Performance Hall is the fourth auditorium in the Arts District alone.

Supporters say it fills a niche for medium-sized music, theater and dance performances that are too big for the 545-seat Wyly Theatre, and too small for the 2,000-seat Meyerson Symphony Center or the 2,400-seat Winspear Opera House.

All four buildings are owned by the City of Dallas, but only the City Performance Hall was paid for with taxpayer money.

“A mid-sized hall for mid-sized organizations and emerging groups in a growth path were really necessary,” said Maria Muñoz-Blanco, director of the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. “There is a need, and there are plenty of groups that will be using this facility.”

She said 140 dates have already been booked for performances this season, exceeding expectations.

Dallas Chamber Symphony has reserved the venue for six performances over the next few months. The 36-member orchestra is new, but its director, Richard McKay, thinks he can sell enough tickets to cover the rental cost.

"It’s always a challenge," he said, "but we’re ready for it, and I think we can grow into this hall very nicely."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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