After more than a year of remodeling, the Robert Frost Auditorium officially opened to audiences. The international architectural landmark hosted a gala celebration on Sept. 29, 2018, and the community turned out to applaud.
From the summer of 2014, when the Culver City Unified School first connected with architecture firm Hodgetts + Fung, the spiral of creativity has grown ever wider to encompass the building, the students, the city, and the multiverse of future possibilities for the Frost. The Gala, hosted by the Culver City Education Foundation, was just a first taste.
The original construction in 1963 gave the school complex a large theater whose constant use contributed to both the first-rate arts education offered by the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, and also wore the building into a state of disrepair. With careful investment by the CCUSD board, the many challenges and obstacles of updating the unique theater were all overcome.
It was a moment to celebrate.
Kicking off with champagne and appetizers outside, the festivities were taken into the Frost by the Culver City High School Marching Band, led by Mayor Thomas Small as the unusual Drum Major. With 1200 newly upholstered seats, a remarkable steel proscenium arch and a state of the art lighting and sound system. the Frost is both a showcase and a showpiece. Every dollar spent was discreetly visible.
The show was MC’d by Howard Behnken and Elain Strom Behnken, a couple who may have collectively spent more time in the Frost than anyone not employed by the district or Balfour and Beatty Construction. They charmed the crowd with jokes, kept the program flowing forward, and introduced the students singing “True Colors” in a brief musical interlude. The song showcased the talent that will benefit from the Frost. All the singers, dancers and visual artists of the AVPA showed off the lights, the sound, and the solid new stage along with their talents.
CCUSD’s School Board President Anne Allaire and School Superintendent Leslie Lockhart offered the official Welcome and Acknowledgements, and introduced a short film, beautifully crafted by Director Dan O’Brien. (See Video Below)
After Culver City Education Foundation Executive Director Melanie Mack announced a new endowment to support the Frost, Culver City’s Poet Laureate, Janet Hoult read Robert Frost’s iconic poem, ‘The Road Not Taken” in a golden tone that evidenced an acoustic ideal.
The poetry continued with CCHS and AVPA alum Brian Sonia-Wallace, who offered a musical typewriter performance in tribute to Janice Pober, the Global Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Sony Pictures Entertainment. While Pober does not have a business card giving her the title “Fairy Godmother in Advanced Generosity for Educating Artists,” Culver City knows her best as one of the creators of the AVPA, and a powerful force supporting it through the years.
Many who came to the podium also thanked Heather Moses, the District Arts Coordinator. She offered “So many people worked tirelessly to get us to tonight. The students of CCUSD and the community at large will get to enjoy this space for many years to come. [I am] so lucky to be a part of this community!”
The show closed with a performance of the song “Brand New Day” from the musical, The Wiz. Perhaps just a charming song, but also a sweetly secretive double-entrndre to all the magic that the arts have brought to Culver City, and the way that Culver City has made it’s love of creativity a gift to the world.