PAC NYC officially opens, with two billionaires, two mayors, two matinee idols, and a governor

The Perelman Performing Arts Center, or PAC NYC, held a ribbon connection (rather than ribbon cutting) ceremony today on a stage in the lobby that will offer free entertainment every day from the moment the building opens to the public on Friday  – as it did today, led by Joshua Bell and Gavin Creel, with Laurence Fishburne in voiceover proclaiming truths about art. (see videos below)

Twenty-two years after the idea for such a center took root in the ashes of September 11th, Paula Grant Berry, the first to speak at the ceremony, said the PAC will be “a place to celebrate life… While we’re always going to remember what happened here in the past. It’s time to build some new memories.” Berry, who is a board member of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, lost her husband on 9/11,

“Today we inaugurate the last major piece of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center,” said Michael Bloomberg, who was one of the mayors (and one of the billionaires), and is also chair of the PAC NYC Board of Directors, Bloomberg, who took office a few months after 9/11, thought from the beginning that “culture and creativity belonged here. The arts, as we all know, is a part of what makes New York a beacon of light around the world. And lower Manhattan has always been a crossroads of the world and a cauldron of creativity. The first reported performance of flight in New York City. blocks from here on Nassau Street, in 1732. But there has never been a major performing arts venue in Lower Manhattan. The Perelman Performing Arts Center will change that in a spectacular fashion.”

After citing statistics showing how Lower Manhattan is better than it was on September 10, 2001 – twice as many residents, four times as many schools, six times as many hotels. I’ve always said that culture gets commerce rather than commerce gets culture. You start out with things that people want to enjoy and want to participate in. Then people move in and build.  The arts have helped to fuel our city’s historic comeback.”

The second billionaire seconded the importance of the arts. “Arts are more than entertainment. They are probably the only common language that the world speaks,” said Ronald Perelman (whose name became attached to the center after he donated $75 million to renew a project that had seemed increasingly less likely.)

The current officeholders talked forcefully about New York being back, and the historic resilience of New York, and proclaimed themselves optimistic. 

Governor Kathy Hochul called the PAC “a magnificent, magical place. It’s magical, if you’ve not had a tour, to see the vision that went into every single block of marble selected from the finest quarries in Portugal, because New York deserves the best. This place says we are the best and this place is a cathedral to the best… I believe that there’ll be replications of this space all over the world because what we do, the rest of the world wants to do,

Mayor Eric Adams recalled his experience on 9/11, when he was a lieutenant in the polic edeaprtmatn, and spoke in praise of Michael Bloomberg (What do you want to say about the commercial? I want to be like Mike, it’s like Michael Jordan, I want to be like Mike Michael Bloomberg.

smart decisions, tough choices, the ability to ignore the noise, and move a city out of the state of devastation to a state of prosperity. We did not get here to open the center, just by throwing caution to the wind and stated that it was going to happen automatically. We got here because he was able to muster support from the federal, state and local governments to all work together. That is how you get through crisis.”

Adams recalled how FDR pour millions of dollars into the arts. . It renews our spirit. It starts the healing process that we are all experiencing and have never gotten over. This is a significant moment for all of us. And the more that we open artistic places, and relationships and creativity. It breaks down those boundaries that we introduce ourselves to others and most importantly we introduce ourselves to ourselves. It is the beginning of the healing process. 

“So let the music play and let all that come here do what I asked our visitors to do. Spend money. Congratulation.”

After the ceremony,Khady Kamara and Bill Rauch, the executive director and artistic director of The Pac, gave us a tour of the theaters on the fourth floor, explaining that there are three principal venues – the John E Zuccotti Theater (seating up to 450 people), the Mike Nichols Theater (up to 250) and the Doris Duke Theater (up to 99) – but that they can be combined and rearranged to dozens of different configurations from 90 to 950 seats.  They said the walls weight 46 tons, “so that we can have a loud rock and roll show in one theater and a quiet spoken word piece and the other. We know, because we tested it.

At the official opening ceremony for the Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center, violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Larisa Martinez and pianist Peter Dugan perforrm “Somewhere” from West Side Story — introduced by Laurence Fishburne

Gavin Creel and the Joffrey Ballet School dancers perform “Beautiful City” from Godspell at the opening ceremony — called a ribbon connection, not  ribbon cutting — while Laurence Fishburne proclaiming truths about art, which leads to a living tableau of officialdom.

PAC NYC Inaugural Season: Theater highlights

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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