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BSPAC: "Bring Up The Lights"

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Last updated 3/22/2021 at 12:15pm



The Performing Arts Center, like so many other organizations in Borrego, was financially hurt by having to cancel its seasonal program last year due to the pandemic. Despite a dismal year in revenues, the Center’s Board of Directors aren’t looking back, but forward to the coming season.

According to Richard Helvig, chairman of the board, the Center plans to book performances and bring back its annual opening gala in November 2021, assuming the virus continues to lessen its grip on the county.

In the meantime, the board is moving ahead on improvements to the theater with a fundraising campaign to install modern theater lighting. The campaign, “Bring up the Lights,” is hoping to raise $175,000 through grants and community philanthropy.

The Theater was originally a movie theater until the Performing Arts Group took it over in 1990. The stage lighting has never been updated. Helvig opined that many groups after learning of the theater’s technical and infrastructural defects simply decline to perform in Borrego.

“Theatre lighting is an important element of live performance, from the ability to focus on specific performers with a limelight, to adding dimension, context, relationships, and other visually important nuances. A priority is bringing lighting to the entire stage.

“Some groups put up with the lighting even though they don’t like it. For example, the San Diego Ballet has commented about inadequate lighting in the back part of the stage.”

Helvig added that without proper lighting, the audience and performers don’t receive the fullest experience possible.

“The Performing Arts Center is ready to enhance that experience with lighting worthy of a performance theater versus a movie theater,” he said.

In movie theaters, the lighting is geared toward seating the audience; the lights go dark when the screen action begins. On a live performance stage, the lights come up when the performance starts, and remain throughout as an essential element of the show.

Through community fundraising, the Performing Arts Center has been able to upgrade all 177 seats and redo the old floor.

“We are so appreciative of the generosity of our local followers and members, and also believe that people not only take pride in the Center, but appreciate not having to leave home for artistic performances. It’s a bonus to enjoy live theater without driving to San Diego or Palm Springs,” Helvig stated.

The Center also plays an essential role in the community, offering the only venue for a variety of Borrego’s arts, culture, and nature organizations. Up to 10 other events rely on the stage to entertain and raise funds. These range from children’s dance rehearsals and lessons, the annual Film Festival, Anza Borrego Natural History Association’s (ABDNHA) lecture series, concerts, festivals, and the Anza-Borrego Foundation’s Fun and Outrageous Front Porch Reviews.

Helvig points out, for 30 years the theater has been struggling with lighting issues and decided now was a good time to show they were going to be back in the fall, better than ever.

“One of the big problems is that the lights, besides being old and not adapted for live theater, are bolted down on the ceiling and stage. Getting to change bulbs on the ceiling lights is a safety issue, as it requires climbing a 30-foot scaffold to reach the light fixtures. I made the climb once and never want to do it again,” he revealed.

Helvig and the directors believe new theater lighting will not only enhance the performances for the audience, but will encourage more professional groups to sign up for the season. The Center’s performing arts series has been described as a jewel in the town’s crown. Just as with jewels, lighting brings out all the magical and multiple facets, the visual experience of a live performance with proper stage lighting, will captivate the eye and capture the imagination.

On a personal level, Helvig said, “’It’s time to ‘bring up the lights,’ because people enjoy and benefit so much from the arts. My goal is to ensure the Center’s continued improvements and success now and into the future.”

For more information on the Performing Arts Center, and “Bring up the Lights” fundraising campaign go to http://www.bspac.org.

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