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Arts center acts look for temporary home

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Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2009 7:00 pm

The Chandler Center for the Arts is receiving a $6.7 million face-lift over the next year, renovations that will temporarily displace some of its larger attractions.

The center’s upgrades include a new rigging system, updates to the fire alarms and air conditioning, and more access for the disabled. The building, just coming up on its 20th birthday, is due for a makeover.

“It’s all the original infrastructure,” said Katrina Mueller, manager of the center. “It’s a very worn-out system.”

The new rigging system will help expand the shows at the center. The current rigging system allows for only one scene change at intermission. The new system will allow for multiple scene changes and will expand the types of plays and musicals that can be performed there.

While the main stage is closed, the 250-seat Recital Hall and 350-seat Bolge Theatre will be open for smaller performances, such as the Hula Hoika Performance set for June 13. Larger shows will be performed at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts. With 1,220 seats, the concert hall at the Higley center is smaller than the 1,540-seat Chandler Center, but substantial enough for large performances. Some of the usual acts at the center have yet to find a home.

“Groups that utilize the center and consider the center home are being displaced for this season,” Mueller said.

Two of those groups are the Salt River Brass, which typically has its entire season at the center, and Ballet Etudes’ “Nutcracker.”

“It’s a family tradition that’s been here every year since the center’s opening,” Mueller said of the “Nutcracker.” The ballet currently doesn’t list a location for its event.

The Chandler Symphony Orchestra will perform at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee Foothills, 12 miles away from the symphony’s usual home.

“We’re moving away from our core audience,” said Michael Wallick, stage manager and symphony board member. “We may lose some of our audience temporarily.”

The symphony chose Desert Vista because of its size and location.

“It’s of comparable size,” Wallick said of the 1,100-seat auditorium.

The symphony will continue to rehearse at Holy Spirit Catholic Church and plans to maintain a five-performance schedule for the 2009-10 season.

The Chandler Symphony is composed of volunteer musicians. Shows are free to the public, although they do collect suggested donations of $10 for adults and $5 for children.

The symphony will return to its normal stage for the 2010-11 season after the completion of the Chandler center’s renovations. It’s a move Wallick said he and the rest of the symphony are looking forward to.

Mueller expects to have all of the acts back on the new main stage for the 2010-11 season.

The multimillion-dollar renovations, currently in the demolition phase, are scheduled to be completed in May 2010. The new upgrades, such as a ramp to the middle seating area, will make the center more accessible for patrons with disabilities. New fire alarm and security systems will bring the center up to current code.

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