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New performing arts centers

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

San Antonio

San Antonio is the largest city in the country without a performing arts center, but that will change when the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts opens in September, said Michael Fresher, president and CEO.

“This city has ached and yearned for a facility like this,” he said.

The center is being built on the site of the 1926 Municipal Auditorium but salvages the building’s facade. Inside, the H-E-B performance hall will have 1,759 seats and the nation’s first “flat-floor mechanism.” That means the entire floor “literally flips over” section by section until the seats are hanging “like bats” on the other side of a flat hardwood floor, Fresher said. With the touch of a button, the automated system transforms the space from performance hall to banquet hall in 23 minutes.

The Tobin will also feature an outdoor plaza that can hold 600 to 1,000 people for concerts, evening movies and other events. The granite-paved plaza has a 32-foot video board to simulcast performances from inside the theater, depending on the show and ticket sales, Fresher said.

The Tobin also sits on the banks of the San Antonio River in downtown, and the plaza connects to the city’s famous River Walk, a riverfront pedestrian promenade lined with bars, restaurants and shops.

Although it’s too early to announce the Tobin’s lineup, the 2014-2015 season will include 23 weeks of symphony, five weeks of ballet and three weeks of opera. But the Tobin will also offer programming that appeals to and serves the entire community: comedians; children’s shows; and rock, rap, country and Latino concerts, Fresher said.

“We’re not simply a temple to the high arts; it’s too easy to fall into that role,” he said. “We need to provide a comfortable place for every demographic, every ethnic background, every culture.”

When the center opens, it will have a 20-day festival rather than a single opening night; each night will be a “different opening night, from opera to EDM [electronic dance music],” Fresher said.

The Tobin has about 10 nontheater spaces available for private functions and provides on-site catering. The center will also offer guided backstage tours for groups.


Smith Center

Las Vegas

When people move to or visit Las Vegas, many assume Sin City isn’t the place for the symphony.

“We asked people who moved here from out of state where they go for cultural activities, and even though we do have an orchestra and a ballet, their point was, ‘Well, we didn’t even look,’” said Suzanne Chabre, vice president of marketing and communications for the Smith Center.

That changed when the Art Deco-style performing arts center opened in downtown in March 2012 with three theaters, a courtyard and a 17-story carillon tower that houses 47 cast bronze bells. The center sits in the 1.7-acre Symphony Park, a popular site for outdoor concerts and festivals.

The 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall is home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet Theatre. Next to Reynolds Hall, Boman Pavilion houses two small theaters: the 258-seat Cabaret Jazz, which overlooks the park, and the 250-seat black-box Troesh Studio Theater, which is often used for comedies, children’s theater and private events, Chabre said.

The Smith aims to deliver diverse programming to serve the Las Vegas community. Shows run the gamut from a Queen tribute band to the world-renowned St. Petersburg Philharmonic, from Broadway productions to Mariachi performers, Chabre said.

“There isn’t much we don’t present,” she said. “If you like it, we’ll have it.”

The Smith will also produce shows; the first is its version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which features Teller of Penn and Teller and singer Tom Waits. The show opens at the Smith in April and will go to Boston; Washington, D.C.; and “hopefully, Broadway,” Chabre said.

The center’s group sales department handles groups of 10 or more and provides preferred seating and special pricing, she said. Groups can also arrange for facility tours and on-site dinners and receptions.