Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center celebrates 10-year anniversary amid closure during the pandemic

The Performing Arts Center at Kent State’s Tuscarawas campus. 

Oliva Futo Reporter

When Food Network’s Alton Brown came to the performing arts center at the Kent State Tuscarawas campus, fan and community member Meaghan Chismar knew she had to take her kids to the show. A meet and greet and signed posters later, Chismar and her daughters created lifelong memories. 

Over the years the Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center, known as the PAC, has hosted a variety of shows including the Blue Man Group, Cinderella and the Pink Floyd Experience since it opened in 2010.

The center has greatly improved over the years, said David Mitchell, general manager of the PAC since 2015. 

Since the closure in March due to the pandemic, the PAC has not hosted live shows. Mitchell said he was devastated because 2020 was going to be “a monumental year.” Since last March, the venue has lost an estimated $600,000 in ticket revenue, according to the center’s website.

“It was like a punch to the gut because this coming season was going to be one of the best we’ve had in a while,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got some big names and big shows that are coming when we reopen. I think once we do announce, we’re going to be pretty excited.” 

Due to the rural surrounding area, most people in the community had not been exposed to shows such as musicals, stand-up comedians and plays, Mitchell said.

“Before the venue was here, 10 years ago, you had to drive two hours to Pittsburgh, two hours to Columbus, an hour and a half to Cleveland if you wanted to experience anything that we’re currently bringing in,” he said. “Slowly, we’re bringing people around to participate more and expose themselves to new ideas. That’s probably the biggest change that’s happened.”

Other than the shows it offers, the PAC is home to its educational program, Class Acts, a series of shows open to elementary age students. With an entry fee of $1 for students, children from the surrounding areas can watch a show at the theater and have the opportunity to meet the performers and ask questions. 

“They’re coming here to see a show,” Mitchell said. “A lot of the time, it’s the first time these elementary kids have ever been in a building like the PAC, let alone a theater. Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a live performance.”

Since the opening of the PAC, participation has doubled for the Class Acts program, Mitchell said. Before the pandemic hit, booked artists would also go to local schools to visit the students.

“We’ll bring an artist into town a couple days early and go out into elementary or middle schools. These kids have never seen professional musicians. They’ve never been exposed to some of the styles of music that we’re bringing in,” Mitchell said. 

Chismar, a long-time supporter of the PAC, said her four children have all participated in the Class Acts program. 

“It’s just a wonderful resource. Just to sit kids in a theater, have them see some professional events,” Chismar said. “To get to see the broad range of shows, and to do it in our backyard, is valuable.”

Mitchell said he feels it is important for not only small children, but young adults to also see a show in a theater. According to the center’s website, Kent State students can buy show tickets for $10. 

“It’s all part of the learning process, expanding your mind while you’re going to college,” Mitchell said. “You’re expanding your mind by reading books and attending class, but you can also expand your mind by experiencing different cultures and genres of music,.”

Even with the lost revenue sales, Mitchell said they hope to announce next year’s shows this fall and are excited for the upcoming shows. 

Donations to the PAC can be made through its website.

Oliva Futo covers the regional campuses. Contact her at [email protected]