SOPAC Celebrating 5 Years of Community

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South Orange Performing Arts Center SOPAC Spring Gala. © 2011 MHP and D/Micha Hamilton Photography and DesignThe South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC)  is celebrating its 5th year anniversary, having originally opened its doors in November of 2006. After dining at one of SOPAC’s website recommended restaurants, I found my way to the box office to pick up my ticket for the 2011 Spring Gala and celebration. The venue, conveniently located next to NJ Transit is much more than a small arts center.  Sharing space with a cinema, the performing arts center might initially seem out of place. The smell of popcorn doesn’t typically waft through your nostrils as you sip wine in a theater lobby. However when the realization of what is truly happening in that space hits you, it all makes sense.

Separated by design and a beautiful granite staircase, the movie theater, the original inspiration, and the performing arts center combine harmoniously to bring together community in all things art. The Spring Gala was a tribute to that accomplishment.

SOPAC Lobby during Gala Reception/Silent Auction. © 2011 MHP and D/Micha Hamilton Photography and Design.

SOPAC Lobby during Gala Reception/Silent Auction. © 2011 MHP and D/Micha Hamilton Photography and Design.

Everything about SOPAC stands out. Upon arrival you notice the curvature of the building and the large windows. A giant sundial stands before the entrance. The 3 story lobby houses the box office which proved to be quite efficient with friendly staff, a small bar with modest prices, the elevator and staircase.  The decor is tasteful with great detail and beautiful art. The items donated for the benefit silent auction were dispersed throughout the first and second floors offering everything from locally themed items to jewelry, many within most budgets. While I was unable to enter, the third floor offers a loft with spectacular views capable of holding 145 people for private and corporate functions.   It offers a fully functional kitchen for catering. The volunteers I encountered along the way were abundant and extremely engaging. Once inside the actual theater it is easy to see why SOPAC has become a hub for local artists and superstars alike.  The performance hall, with only 415 seats, feels intimate and comfortable.  Having a mere 12 rows and 6 in the mezzanine makes every seat in the house a good one. Sitting in the last row farthest to the right I still felt very much a part of the performance. One patron was overheard referring to it as “a darling little theater”. 

The Midtown Men: (l to r) Michael Longoria, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer. © 2011 MHP and D/Micha Hamilton Photography and Design

The Midtown Men: (l to r) Michael Longoria, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer. © 2011 MHP and D/Micha Hamilton Photography and Design

The SOPAC 2011 Spring Gala offered a chance to pay tribute to those who unselfishly give their time and money to the arts, the children, the community and the state.  Through their speeches, the nominees, Joseph N. DiVencenzo, Jr., Essex County Executive, Anthony J. Leitner, Patrick Morrissey, and Nicholas Santoro left the audience appreciating the arts and the Oranges a little more and wanting to get involved. Even the awards given were created by a non-profit arts organization that benefits at-risk youths. The ceremony was followed by the performance The Midtown Men. The high energy show featuring four of the original Jersey Boys cast brought unexpected vigor from the crowd. The evening was filled with music, an appreciation of the past and a hopeful look into the future.

The South Orange Performing Arts Center with its Executive and Artistic Director Michael Bollinger has successfully met its original goals of creating jobs, offering arts education to the community and building partnerships.  After five years SOPAC continues to do what it set out to accomplish; anchor the downtown business district, become a community gathering point and a regional point of arts pride.

 

South Orange Performing Arts Center SOPAC Spring Gala. © 2011 MHP and D/Micha Hamilton Photography and DesignThe South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC)  is celebrating its 5th year anniversary, having originally opened its doors in November of 2006. After dining at one of SOPAC’s website recommended restaurants, I found my way to the box office to pick up my ticket for the 2011 Spring Gala and celebration. The venue, conveniently located next to NJ Transit is much more than a small arts center.  Sharing space with a cinema, the performing arts center might initially seem out of place. The smell of popcorn doesn’t typically waft through your nostrils as you sip wine in a theater lobby. However when the realization of what is truly happening in that space hits you, it all makes sense.