The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills is slated to open on Oct. 17 in the Beverly Hills Post Office’s old stamping grounds, a historic Works Progress Administration (WPA) building on Canon Drive.
The ongoing project will merge the repurposed post office building with the center’s new Goldsmith Theater, a 500-seat venue that will be state of the art, said Katy Sweet, of the public relations firm, Katy Sweet & Associates.
The center will operate independently, but is being supported by the Annenberg Foundation, a family foundation created in 1989 that was founded by publisher and ambassador Walter H. Annenberg. His daughter, Wallis, is the current president and CEO of the foundation.
“It was really a group of very dedicated supporters and citizens who put this together — No. 1, of course, would be Wallis Annenberg,” Sweet said. “It’s something she truly believed [in] tremendously.”
During a hard-hat tour last Friday, Sweet and representatives of MATT Construction led members of the media through the future site of the center, which was designed by architect Zoltan Pali.
Construction began in 2011, and a significant portion of the work involves restoring certain elements of the post office, which came to be in 1933 after cowboy and actor Will Rogers wrote the U.S. government and stated that the city of Beverly Hills deserved a post office, Sweet said.
Seven historic frescos, which were painted during the WPA construction, will be restored, Sweet said. Three words — communication, cooperation and enlightenment — adorned the wall of the post office, and since they are applicable to the mission of the center, they will remain, she said.
“There are a lot of historic details,” Sweet added. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful building.”
The Goldsmith Theater is separate from the historic post office, but it will be complemented by a 150-seat Studio Theater and a 150-seat flexible performance space and rehearsal hall. The Goldsmith Theater will have a 100-seat balcony, and will be 80 feet tall, with 40 feet below grade. It is being built in the area that once housed the post office’s surface parking lot.
Sweet said the center will host a theatre school, which will have three classrooms that accommodate 20 students apiece. She said officials would like to have individuals who perform at the center work with students in the classrooms.
“That’s still evolving,” Sweet said.
The center will also offer a café, gift shop, a grand walkway that connects the historic building to the theatre, administrative offices, a promenade, an indoor/outdoor bar, a terrace that seats 500 people, a master dining room, prop shops, a sculpture garden and more.
Officials plan to utilize some facets of the old post office operation; for example, patrons will purchase tickets at the same windows that post office patrons once used to purchase stamps.
“It’s going to be very interactive,” Sweet said.
Certain elements of the property, such as the sculpture garden, will be open to the general public. Sweet said a walkway will link the center to city hall. Patrons will have two options to enter the center: through valet parking and a self-park garage next to Beverly Hills City Hall on North Crescent Drive.
Sweet said staff members will move into their new offices in August, and programming for the first season will be announced in June. She would not disclose the cost of the construction.
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will be located at 470 N. Canon Drive.
For information, visit www.annenbergbh.com.
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