A Star-Studded Season Planned at Performing Arts Center

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Reed Travel Features

NEWARK -- The New Jersey Performing Arts Center here announced its inaugural season of performances in preparation for its Oct. 18 grand opening.

"We're programming this center for our [ethnically diverse] neighborhood, and our neighborhood is the world," Stephanie Hughley, NJPAC's vice president of programming, said.

The first year's roster features renowned international artists, ranging from Jessye Norman and Itzhak Perlman to the Peking Opera and Italy's Balletto di Toscana.

Home of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, NJPAC also has established affiliate relationships with nationally recognized companies, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the American Ballet Theater, the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

To further celebrate the global diversity of music and dance, NJPAC each year will present World Festival, a yearlong series of performances, lectures, symposiums, artistic residencies and community events that will focus on the international evolution of one particular culture and its interaction with other traditions.

For the first World Festival, NJPAC will acknowledge Newark's Portuguese-speaking community with a focus on its culture.

"By addressing Portuguese culture within the World Festival, we are already striking a balance of Europe, Africa, Asia and South America," Hughley said.

Future World Festivals will celebrate Africans in the Americas as well as the Caribbean.

Other productions during the inaugural season include "The Lost Jazz Shrines," a performance series that revives the history of bygone Newark jazz clubs, and "African-American Women Dance Pioneers," a tribute to those women who trained generations of dancers in their schools.

Sweet Honey in the Rock, Wynton Marsalis, The Chieftains and Paco de Lucia also are among the artists scheduled to perform during the first season.

A Familytime series will feature special productions for children, such as "The Crown of Destiny," a Scottish epic performed by a Canadian troupe of puppeteers; the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Co., which presents ancient dances of China, and a performance of "And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank."

In another series, For Kids by Kids, children can watch some of New Jersey's most talented youngsters dance, sing, act and make music in several productions.

Although the performances at the NJPAC will take center stage, the $180 million cultural institution itself is much more than background scenery.

The 250,000-square-foot building houses the 2,750-seat Prudential Hall and the 514-seat Victoria Theater.

In addition to its two main theaters, the 12-acre complex also includes rehearsal and banquet facilities, restaurant space, an outdoor park and an outdoor performance space called Theater Square.

The banquet hall and public spaces will be available to rent for corporate functions, trade shows and other group events. Catering will be available on-site.

Early subscription purchases are discounted 20% to 30% off individual ticket prices.

NJPAC is located in downtown Newark on the riverfront near Gateway Center, Penn Station and the Ironbound district, known for its selection of Portuguese and Spanish eateries.

For more information and a 1997 performance schedule, call (888) GO NJPAC.

For information regarding group sales, call (201) 642-2002.

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