Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center brings big-name acts

Photo courtesy of Performing Arts Center.

Photo courtesy of Performing Arts Center.

Katie Paukst

Tucked away in the farmlands of New Philadelphia is a place that entertains it’s community with singing, acting and dancing.

The Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas campus is a professional international level Broadway presenting house. This means the PAC houses anything from Broadway shows to big name country music stars to world-class dancers.

Since its grand opening in 2010, the PAC has hosted performances such as “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles,” Soul Street Dance Company and Sinbad.

Mike Morelli, general manager of the PAC, said the center is very fortunate for its location because it brings in millions for the area’s economy as well as being centrally located between major cities.

“We are 100 miles from Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh. The acts stop on their way to major cities,” Morelli said. “Agents are happy to make the extra money for extra stops.”

Morelli, who has worked at other organizations such as the Denver City Theater and has two master’s degrees, said the PAC is operated solely through Kent State.

“We have four full-time staff members, 100 kids and community members and student paid jobs. We also have 100 volunteers selling tickets,” Morelli said.

However, the PAC is not just a place for acts to perform. The PAC is also home to students majoring in technical theater, acting and dance.

Bill Auld, assistant theatre professor at the Tuscarawas campus, works with students in the PAC.

“We teach students everything from stage crew to acting,” Auld said. “I believe to teach to a practical component.”

Auld said students also receive a great deal of hands-on experience through the PAC.

“Students graduate with dozens of Broadway [production] experience,” Auld said. “They get a professional industry experience and they also get a say on much of what goes on in the PAC.”

Auld also said the PAC started the student arts organization, where students get to produce shows and have input about who comes to the PAC to perform.

Stevie Bliss, junior theatre studies major and stage crew member at the PAC, said she is fortunate to have the experiences offered to her at the center.

“I personally believe that having the PAC available to me has been a huge part in not only teaching me about the field I am entering, but also in educating me in which concentrated area of the field I truly want to enter,” Bliss said.

As for the shows that go on at the PAC, Bliss said she never knows what to expect when a new show comes to town.

“I am there waiting to unload the trucks, build the set, run line sets, shuck weight on the load bridge, rig points or figure out a light plot … I have learned so much in such a short period of time — it is incredible,” Bliss said. “Each show brings in a different crew, a different feel, different attitude, different demands and ultimately teaches me something new entirely.”

Stephanie Tenan, theater design and technology major, is another crew member at the PAC.

“The Performing Arts Center gives me hands-on experience in my major and allows me to work on the practical parts of my career along with meeting people who live it everyday,” Tenan said. “I have such memorable experiences working the different shows.”

Tenan and Bliss both agree that without the PAC, their experiences, both academic and work related, would not be as fulfilling.

“The PAC offers hands-on experience in a theater that has had acts ranging from Wynona Judd to John Tesh to Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’ We get to see and take part in ‘how it’s really done’ and meet people from all over the country and different parts of the world,” Tenan said. “Every show you work is one more to add to your resume; the list can get lengthy in just one semester.”

For more information on upcoming shows, visit tusc.kent.edu/pac/event-listing.

Contact Katie Paukst at [email protected].