Editor’s note: This column was written by Doug Ernst, the Napa Valley College public information officer.

One of Napa Valley’s best venues for community theater is the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Napa Valley College.

That’s because NVC faculty and staff conceived, built and maintain the PAC as a modern facility to educate and support students learning to produce professional music and theater.

Jennifer King, professor of theater arts, told the college board of trustees last month that the community investment in the PAC is producing “some of the best theater I’ve ever seen.”

At the meeting, she delivered a passionate, 13-minute account about the effect the PAC theater programs are having on students and their audiences. (Her comments can be heard at s3.amazonaws.com/nonaudio/king.mp3)

Dr. Cathryn Wilkinson, the dean of arts and humanities, says she would like to see larger audiences and more music and theater productions, and she also recognizes that one way to attract more people to music and theater productions is to attract them to community-based events.

For example, among the many recent public events staged in the Main Theater was the Cesar Chavez Day naturalization ceremony on March 31 featuring 21 new American citizens and a dramatic performance of the national anthem by the Napa High School Vocal Music Workshop.

Last fall, the PAC hosted Chamber Music in Napa Valley for two standing-room-only concerts.

Another was the April 6 conversation led by Dr. Bonny Forrest, a child development expert. Yet another was the April 8 conference on protecting children from sex traffickers, serving both students and the community.

Later this month, the popular speaker series TEDx Napa Valley will come to the PAC, featuring such diverse topics as crime, visual effects, improvisation, shamanism, conflict resolution, stand-up comedy and faces.

Will some of the Napa Valley residents who attend public performances and educational events also consider attending music and theater performances produced by the college?

Penny Pawl, a longtime supporter of the college, said she believes more involvement in the PAC would be great for Napa Valley residents.

“The inside is marvelous, not only for performances, but also for teaching,” she said.

“Before the PAC, we used the Little Theater where performing students were using restrooms as dressing rooms,” said Pawl, a Napa resident for 60 years. “Now we have enough dressing rooms, and we have community groups performing in the PAC, and the college is becoming a center for the public.”

Wilkinson agrees that the PAC could attract more residents, particularly audiences for music and theater productions.

“While our first priority is the educational mission to serve students at the college, we continue to look for ways to collaborate and share our resources with off-campus groups,” she said.

“I would love to see a series of educational lectures at the PAC, a Great Talks Series, where patrons could buy a season ticket, have a social event, hear a lecture and spin it into a discussion group or initiative,” she suggested.

Wilkinson envisions a performing arts advisory group of Napa Valley residents who would meet regularly, gather ideas and provide feedback to the college. Board members could be mentors, helping students through the arts programs, encouraging performers before auditions and congratulating them when they get accepted to four-year colleges.

In the meantime, Wilkinson said, community organizations that want to use the 430-seat Main Theater or the Paul Ash Lobby should contact Susan Brinson at 256-7584 to confirm availability and rental requirements.

Do you have ideas for performances or educational events that could be hosted by the PAC?

If an advisory board is formed, would you be interested in serving?

Please send your suggestions or ideas to Doug Ernst at dernst@napavalley.edu, or call 256-7112.

Mary Cervantes is the business services director for Napa Valley College Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Reach her at 256-7253 or mcervantes@napavalley.edu.

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