Over the years, the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center has set the stage for comedian Seth MacFarlane, musician Jose Feliciano and the Dalai Lama. This year, the Carpenter Performing Arts Center will be continuing its long-lasting success in its 25th anniversary season.
“We’re really trying to focus on students [this year],” said Megan Kline Crockett, executive director of the Carpenter Center.
Jad Abumrad, co-creator of the podcast “Radiolab,” is just one of the many guests that the Carpenter Center has lined up. Along with performances by YouTube sensation Miranda Sings and “America’s Got Talent” breakout star Mandy Harvey, their appearances will be ones that the theatre is hoping will appeal more to students’ interests.
“Part of the problem is getting students to know what we do here,” Kline Crockett said. “This season, the venue is seeking to present more ‘diverse and culturally relevant events that speak to the interests and experiences of students today.’”
Among the acts in the Carpenter Center’s “Wit & Wisdom Series” will be Sandra Bernhard and Anne Lamott. “Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience” and “Cirque FLIP Fabrique” will be apart of the “Wow! Series.” Other singers who will perform in the Carpenter’s “Cabaret Series” include Stacey Sullivan, Davis Gaines and Ann Hampton.
“Even if you don’t know who somebody is, you’re going to have an amazing experience,” Kline Crockett said. “Everyone we bring in is the best at what they do. The best dancers, the best singers, the best stand-up.”
Perhaps the most notable figure who will be making an appearance is Emmy-Award winner Bill Nye. The science guy’s visit will include a regular evening of enlightenment and comedy as well as a separate VIP meet and greet.
Every January, Kline Crockett travels to New York to find inspiration for future Carpenter Center performances. Responsible for negotiating with agents to bring famous talents to the Carpenter Center, Kline Crockett has yet to have anyone reject an offer.
“They’re not going to go just to any performing arts center,” Kline Crockett said. “They come here because of our reputation.”
Seating just over 1,000 people, the Carpenter Center was modeled after the six-level David H. Koch Theatre in New York City.
“It’s a beautiful venue, we have a great audience,” Kline Crockett said. “There’s not a bad seat in the house.”
The theatre was named after brother-sister duo Richard and Karen Carpenter, who were the most successful American pop group of the 1970s, The Carpenters. Their 11 gold albums and 10 gold singles were part of the 100 million recordings that the Long Beach State alumni sold worldwide. When visiting Southern California, fans from all over the nation and abroad visit the Carpenters’ childhood home in Downey as well as the theatre.
Commemorating Karen’s sudden death at the age of 33, Richard donated the center to CSULB in 1994. Since then, the venue has continuously “renewed [its] commitment to celebrate wonder, diversity, and exceptional artistic achievement,” according to Kline Crockett.
In addition to providing educational outreach to Long Beach Unified School District, the Carpenter Center lets its stage be used by rental companies and on-campus student groups. CSULB students also comprise some of the theatre’s staff in the ticketing office, concession stands and the marketing department.
Some of the initiatives that the center puts forward in helping students are free masters classes and workshops tied to performers.
“We try as much as we can to work with academic units across campus, offering ways to collaborate,” Kline Crockett said.