SOPAC Offers World Renowned Music and Community Outreach
Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Mark Packer, Executive Director of the South Orange Performing Arts Center, which hosts world-renowned music talent and provides extensive community outreach programs.
"We're pleased to welcome Mark Packer, Executive Director of a terrific Performing Arts Center called the South Orange Performing Arts Center, otherwise known as...? ...SOPAC. ...SOPAC. Describe it. I mean I've been there. It's a great place in a great town. Tell us. SOPAC is 439 seat theater. It also has a 2,000 square foot loft space up on the third floor, a towering atrium from an open lobby that goes all the way up to the top of the building, and on the second and third floors, there's a gallery space. It's gorgeous. It is. One of the things that's really special about SOPAC is that the theater is incredibly intimate, it has superb sightlines, comfortable seating, and the acoustics are just breathtaking. Hmm. And so you know, people who go and see a show there say that it's like sitting in their own living room and having the artist perform in front of them. Speaking of artists, one of the... I don't know if you have them in order or not, but I had a great interview with Bucky Pizzarelli and his son John, John Pizza... two great jazz guitarists, two just talented... John with you guys? Yes, John has performed at SOPAC several times, and we have him coming back next season. That's awesome, who else? I love him, he's just... and he's an amazing raconteur, as well as a performer. He is! He really is! Yeah. Who else do you have? Oh this Summer I have Mary Chapin Carpenter. I'm really excited about, you know, we're getting a lot of artists at SOPAC who generally play... Taj Mahal? ...much larger venues. Taj Mahal, we've had… Keb' Mo'? Keb' Mo' we've had, absolutely, and these are artists who, I think enjoy the experience of performing in our space, they feel a connection to the audience and so they often request to come back and play at our venue. How difficult is it? Because I've been at... we've done some taping at another Arts Center down the road from you, a little small place, you might know it. I often think, how competitive is it? [laughter] You got them over there downtown in Brick City, Newark? Right? Yeah. And you got... you guys... and I'm thinking, "You guys have great acts, they have good acts" - how does that work? Well you... Are you all collaborative with each other? Actually there's an amazing spirit of collegiality. Really? Among the non-profit arts organizations, absolutely. Because? But it really is. It's stunning to me. I mean I came to SOPAC five years ago and I thought, "You know I'm gonna be an island out there." Hmm. And it's been the complete opposite, people were so gracious and helpful, and I don't feel..."