South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) announced their groundbreaking new programming model: Creative Community Brain Trust. Led by five industry experts, the Brain Trust will guide SOPAC toward inclusively excellent, radically creative, and community-powered programming.
Each expert focuses on a pillar of SOPAC’s programming: for Experiential and Immersive, artist, performer and curator Adam Rei Siegel; for Kids and Family, Founding Mothers Founder Dr. Alissa D. Gardenhire; for Broadway in Concert and New Musicals Development, Dana Spialter & SOMA Stage; for Comedy, Comedian Liz Glazer; and for Music, bassist and producer Mike Griot.
“This moment for SOPAC is about radically reimagining our relationship with our regional community, and lifting up voices and visions for power transformational change,” said SOPAC Executive Director Stephen Beaudoin. “The five individuals selected for the SOPAC Creative Community Brain Trust to animate our community-powered programming each brings a commitment to inclusive excellence, as well as significant industry and community capital to the assignment. Both individually and together, this Brain Trust will envision an ever more creative, community-centric, connected, and empathic northern New Jersey: with SOPAC as its central beating heart.”
The SOPAC Creative Community Brain Trust was launched in the spirit of community curation, something SOPAC would like to embrace in upcoming seasons. The five members work as individuals and as a collective to create and curate SOPAC experiences, artists, acts, and gatherings across the SOPAC campus in the creatively kinetic downtown Village of South Orange, including the SOPAC mainstage, Loft, and additional spaces across the campus .
As a producer of immersive experiences, Adam Rei Siegel is passionate about exploration through art. His events challenge audience members to expand their own artistic boundaries and create memorable experiences.
“I believe that talent can exist in all mediums and forms so my mission as a producer is to elevate non-traditional art forms so they can be appreciated at the same level critically and financially for all of those involved,” Siegel said. “I hope to creatively combine my experiences to create memorable artistic experiences that are accessible.”
Dr. Alissa Gardenhire hopes to foster community connections and safe spaces through family and children’s events at SOPAC.
“I think the systems and rules that we operate within must serve our wellbeing, health and humanity,” Gardenhire said. “When we imagine new ways and move towards them, I believe the social impact and value to individuals and communities is immeasurable.”
Dana Spialter brings the South Orange Broadway community together through SOMA Stage, a creative home for local professional theater artists. Through the Creative Community Brain Trust, she hopes to bring something for every theater lover to the SOPAC stage.
“My work speaks to anyone who enjoys the theater,” Spialter said. “It could attract those looking for an evening out to be entertained, a place to escape, or to be artistically challenged.”
Liz Glazer’s loud and bold comedic style brings new acts to SOPAC that inspire community members.
“My work speaks to someone who’s stuck in a job or life they don’t love but don’t know why, and they want to get out. Someone who’s done everything they were supposed to and it leaves them feeling creatively unfulfilled but they don ‘t know what to do next. Someone who’s been taught logic but wants to feel,” Glazer said.
As a longtime member of the SOPAC family, Mike Griot established SOPAC’s “In the Loft” series, which allows audience members the chance to listen and connect with local artists at close range in the venue’s intimate, accessible, and flexible upstairs Loft space.
“I am committed to creating unique, branded experiences through live music,” Griot said. “Anyone who appreciates the precision, joy and spirit of live entertainment in its highest forms – regardless of genre will enjoy a music event at SOPAC.”
The 2023-24 season kicks off with SOPAC Homecoming Weekend September 22-24, a celebration that highlights the performing arts center as the community’s collective home. The weekend includes main stage shows, family art-making, and more activities to be announced.
Experiential and Immersive curator Adam Rei Siegal is leading SOPAC’s first-ever Halloween immersive experience on October 28, featuring spooky family-friendly fun in the daytime, and a fright-fest after dark, complete with haunted stories rooted in New Jersey folklore.
Additionally, SOPAC will soon announce the first annual SOMA backStage Reading Series in collaboration with SOMA Stage, supporting the development and reading of new theatrical works – both musicals and plays – written and performed primarily by South Orange/Maplewood writers, creatives, and performers. The first annual festival, led by CCBT member Dana Spialter and SOMA Stage, is scheduled for June 3-4, 2023, at SOPAC, and more information will be announced March 13, 2023.