”A Great Performance: Lost on Main Street!”

Performing Arts Centers are feeling the economic pinch!

An amazing performance of acting and song echoed from the rafters and around the room touching every patron at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The energy and joy the performers offered forth was received with applause and appreciation.

On Friday night I had the opportunity to see “In the Heights” at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. My sister’s boss had given her two excellent seats for the performance and she invited me. I had been a season ticket patron several years ago and had always appreciated the excellence of the performances the Center brought to Orange County.

The performance was worthy of Broadway and, in fact, boasted several broadway performers among the incredible cast. Danny Bolero (Kevin), Rogelio Douglas Jr. (Benny), Elise Santora (Abuela Claudia) and Natalie Toro (Camila) came to us from Broadway and gave us magnificent, fun, and energetic performances, as did the entire cast.

Their achievements brought accolades from everyone in the theater.

But the applause, cheers, and whistles were muted. Not for lack of energy from the performers nor their effort, having clearly left everything on the stage. It was because of Main Street.

Main Street failed these wonderful thespians. Main Street Orange County was lacking in its commitment to the play; in its support of the Arts!

Nearly a third of the seats in the sensual ambiance of the Orange County Performing Arts Center were empty! On a Friday night! In conservative Orange County!

The failure to fill the theater on a Friday night in the affluent county of Orange for a play of this quality, a Tony Award winner, is an unambiguous testament to the state of the economy.

When things were better, and I had season tickets, the Performing Arts Center was filled every single night. It was filled for less renowned productions. Filled on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as on weekends.

But things have changed and filling a theater for a play, even one the caliber of In the Heights, has become onerous. Our fading economy—the dying middle-class—is taking a severe toll on many Arts Centers, Halls, Museums and other venues throughout the United States.

The redistribution of wealth—from hard-working Americans to the rich—is destroying the American Dream. It’s also destroying American culture; especially destructive to the Performing Arts.

As the rich get richer they can build great monuments, structures of amazing grandeur bearing their names, like BroadCom’s Henry Samueli and the Segerstrom’s have done in Orange County. They can become patrons and sponsors; big supporters of the Arts in their communities.

But we need more than a few very rich to fill a theater. As the middle-class declines, the number of empty seats increases making the job of providing great entertainment extremely taxing and almost impossible.

Without the middle-class to fill those massive theaters, halls, centers, and museums, the paintings will fade, the laughter wanes, the voices silence…

and the music will die!

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