The opportunities to see performing arts in Spokane are gargantuan and accessible for students. Most theaters and spaces are within walking distance or only a couple minutes’ drive from campus, and these venues want Gonzaga students to come and appreciate local performing arts.

On campus, there are more options for students, most of which will take place in the new Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center (MWPAC).

“This performing arts center has really amped up the attention on the arts,” said Suzanne Ostersmith, assistant professor of theatre and dance and dance director at GU. “I’ve been here a long time and I’ve heard of things like the orchestra but the fact that we’re all tied to the same building now we’ll see what everyone is doing more. There’s a lot going on, a lot of really cool opportunities.”

Some highlights include “Dancing in Lughnasa,” which will be the GU theatre and dance department’s big mainstage performance and will play from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9. “Considering Matthew Shepard” will be performed by the GU choir on March 28 and 29; the dance program’s Student Choreography Concert will be April 7 and 8 and the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra (GSO) with Pascal Roge will take place on April 27. All of these events will be in the MWPAC.

Along with department-led happenings, the MWPAC has its own events coming throughout the semester, including the Dallas String Quartet Electric on Feb. 14, Grim and Fishcher by Wonderheads on April 2, and Neil Berg’s 50 Years of Rock-n-Roll on May 15.

The MWPAC provides new opportunities for performing arts that would have been unfathomable just two years ago. For instance, the dance program will be hosting the American College Dance Association Northwest Conference (ACDA) this spring, March 11-14, something Ostersmith has been wanting to do since coming to GU.

“I’ve been on the national board for six years and I began making the dance program here 20 years ago and we’ve gone to ACDA for 16 or 17 years,” Ostermsith said. “So, we’ve gone to all these universities and for years, I’ve always thought it would be so cool to host but we never could. When Hemmingson came in and the [Myrtle Woldson] Performing Arts Center, I knew we could do it.”

This conference is not just for dance students. There will be a patron pass offered for those who want to see featured performers like the Mark Morris Dance Group or the adjudicated concerts.

“For a school the size that we are, we’re kind of magical because we shouldn’t have a basketball team like we do, our arts are kind of similar in that way,” Ostersmith said. “With this performing arts center and the orchestra, theater, dance and choir, it’s amazing.”

Performances affiliated with GU also happen off-campus, like at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, which is where GSO will perform with world-renowned violinist Midori on Feb. 13. 

There’s also GU faculty and staff who work on productions off campus. At  Spokane Civic Theatre, Courtney Smith, an assistant professor of theatre and dance at GU, will be designing sets for the upcoming production of “Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” which will run Jan. 24 to Feb. 23.

“This is a regional premier,” said Jake Schaefer, creative director at the Spokane Civic Theatre. “I saw it on Broadway and was terrified by the optics of it because it’s huge in scope. For example, there’s one actor who plays eight characters. So, this one’s exciting because it’s also a regional premier.”

Along with this production, the Civic  Theatre will perform renditions of “The Humans” (March 27 to April 19) and “Funny Girl” (May 15 to June 14) on its main stage, as well as “Present Laughter” (Jan. 10 to Feb. 2), “Cabaret” (Feb. 28 to March 22) and “Exile”(April 17 to May 10) in the studio theater.

Both the Civic Theatre and the other major theater in Spokane, Best of Broadway by West Coast Entertainment at The First Interstate Center for the Arts, offer student deals throughout the year. At the Civic Theatre, there are student tickets for $25 and through West Coast Entertainment (WCE), there are $25 student rush tickets for almost any show offered in its professional touring productions.

Through WCE, major Broadway productions like “Chicago” (Feb. 29 to March 1), “Once on This Island” (March  17 to 18) and “Jersey Boys” (April 2 to 5) visit Spokane and offer deals to students.

“It’s a unique experience,” said Leigh Anna Scheuerman, director of marketing at Best of Broadway by West Coast Entertainment. “It’s affordable for students and the great thing is they can show up and they might get tickets in the premium section. It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy an evening out and experience the theater.”

Along with theater, there are opportunities for concert attendees in the area. Most notably at The Knitting Factory, Bing Crosby Theater, Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox and Spokane Arena.

The Knitting Factory brings in indie and semi-well-known artists at a high volume. Some upcoming concerts include Minnesota on Feb. 14, Atmosphere on Feb. 18, Hippie Sabotage on March 3, Aaron Watson on March 19 and Tech N9ne on April 26.

Among other events, Bing Crosby Theater hosts local screenings, concerts and recitals in the small yet diverse performing space. Upcoming events include Wynonna on Jan. 23, “Laugh. No Matter What.” on Jan. 25 and David Archuleta on April 3.

Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox’s calendar heavily features the Spokane Symphony and its eclectic array of concerts from classical pieces to film scores.

Spokane Arena is home to big concerts such as Blake Shelton on Feb. 15, Miranda Lambert on April 24 and Cher on May 2.

Spokane has a variety of performing arts for students to enjoy, though they often don’t take advantage of that.  

“It’s so different than watching something on television or going to a movie; it’s so different going to see something on stage,” Ostersmith said. “Even though the typical Gonzaga student is so overachieving, I am often shocked by how many live performances they haven’t seen.”

Riley Utley is a news editor. Follow her on Twitter: @rileyutley.

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