Sunday, March 14, 2010

Performing Arts Series brings the "big city" to Athens

For 51 years, the Ohio University Performing Arts Series, originally named the Visiting Artist Series, has offered the Ohio University community countless national touring events at a price that can’t be matched. Touring Broadway shows such as “Avenue Q” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” and performances by nationally-known artists like Ben Folds are just some of the unique events that happen frequently at the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium (MemAud), the unofficial “home” of the Performing Arts Series.

Drew Holzaepfel, associate director of the Campus Involvement Center at OHIO, has been working with the Series for over ten years, and said his job never gets boring. He is constantly contacting agents and production companies to discuss potential events for the future and confirm and negotiate current events on the line-up.

I have seen many productions brought by the Performing Arts Series since my arrival at OHIO, and I am always impressed, not only with the caliber of performers, but with the seemingly effortless organization of Holzaepfel’s crew.

But the performance on show night is just a tiny part of what goes into organizing and producing the Performing Arts Series. According to Holzaepfel, the whole process starts in late spring when he or one of his employees attends an annual showcase conference, during which those in the “biz” get a chance to preview touring shows so they get an idea of whether or not they would like to bring them to their venue.

After the OU crew has seen what is available, they survey the Athens community, including the OHIO population, to see what it is that people want to see. With the results, Holzaepfel can get a better idea of what shows or artists would be best for the Series.

Holzaepfel said he loves being able to give the Athens community a taste of the national arts scene.

“Through the Performing Arts Series, we can really bring the ‘big city’ feel to Athens,” he said.

The Performing Arts Series is partially funded through the general student fee, grants and private investors, which allows the University to charge lower ticket prices.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27.4 percent of the Athens community is in poverty. That being said, it would normally be extremely difficult if not impossible for most residents to afford the normally pricy tickets to touring Broadway productions or to see A-list performers, but the Performing Arts Series offers tickets for “a third of the price” they would normally be in a larger city, according to Holzaepfel.

As I’ve discussed before on my blog, experiencing the arts is extremely beneficial to intelligence. This article published by the Dana Foundation discusses new findings that suggest an “openness and creativity” fostered by exposure to the arts increases cognition.

I asked Holzaepfel what his favorite arts performance has been of the over 150 shows since he became the associate director of Campus Involvement, and while he couldn’t narrow it down to one specific event, he mentioned the Moscow Circus that took up residence in MemAud for a week in 2002, and last year’s Wilco concert as events that stick out in his mind.

While Holzaepfel could not confirm any performances planned for the next season, he did mention that there will be some very exciting add-on performances coming up this spring. To stay informed about any upcoming performances at OHIO, visit the Performing Arts Series Web site.

My favorite performance was the Broadway tour of "Hairspray." Below is one of my favorite scenes from the show:

Photo courtesy of


Matthew Beddingfield said...

I love the performing arts series. Senate has tried to collaborate through them and SAC sometimes to bring a show to OU. I heard a rumor that we are bringing a big name here through PAS, do you know if that is true?

Ashley Showen said...

I'm not sure about the collaboration between the PAS and SAC/Student Senate. As far as "big names" I'm not really sure what you mean, but so far it has been confirmed that Jo Dee Messina and Ben Harper are performing here in spring. Just check the Web site for updates! (

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