Happy 35th Tulsa Performing Arts Center
Anchoring the downtown entertainment district at 110 E. 2nd Street for 35 years this month is the Tulsa Performing Arts Center (PAC). Envisioned by founders Robert Lafortune, John H. Williams and Charles Norman as a venue where not only Tulsans, but visitors from across Oklahoma and surrounding states could see high quality entertainment, the PAC has more than lived up to its beginnings.
To find out more about PAC history, we talked to Nancy C. Hermann, marketing director for the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
Q: How long have you worked at the PAC? In what capacity?
A: This is my 20th year at the PAC, though I have been associated with the Center as far back as 1987 when I documented the building’s art collection. I became the editor of INTERMISSION Magazine in 1991 before the magazine came to be edited onsite. At the beginning of my career here, I was a marketing assistant, working for the PAC and PAC Trust. My title is Marketing Director and, up until recently, that included being the editor of INTERMISSION. I’m focusing now on the marketing part of the job.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working there?
A: There are so many facets to the work, and I find multi-tasking challenging and fun. Through my job I help the people who put on the events, and the people who attend them. Since we are a part of the City of Tulsa, I find ways to promote what is important to the City as well. In my work with INTERMISSION, I have interviewed celebrities, and that was cool, but research has always been my favorite part of the writing process. I feel the most pride when I see our theaters filled with children during a “look-in.” We need those kids to be our audience of the future.
Q: In the last few years, the downtown area near the PAC has been growing with new restaurants, the ballpark and more entertainment venues. How has this affected the PAC?
A: I’ve always thought that the more we have downtown, the better it is for all of us. I know there is a crossover audience between the PAC and the BOK Center — that maybe there’s only so much a family can spend on entertainment, and that they might spend it at the BOK instead of the PAC. But, truly, it all works. With the BOK Center at one end of downtown and the ballpark at the other, that puts the PAC in the middle of everything!
Q: Do you have a favorite memory about any of the acts/performers who have been at the PAC over the years?
A: As for the celebrity connections, I enjoyed time spent with Hal Holbrook, M. Scott Peck, Victor Borge and Ramsey Lewis. After working for months to promote their events, another part of the job was picking them up at the airport and looking out for them while they were here. That was particularly enjoyable if their event had sold well!
A highlight for me was Lynn Redgrave’s one-woman show that coincided with her daughter’s photography exhibit in our gallery. Annabel Clark’s photos detailed her mother’s journey with breast cancer, and I was deeply touched by their shared love and resilience.
Q: What is the one thing people don’t know about the PAC that you wish they knew?
A: I’d like for people to have a greater appreciation for the breadth of what is offered at the PAC. We are more that just one big theatre, and we have 15 arts organizations that stage events regularly. We currently have four very active performance spaces, a studio theatre, an art gallery and a large reception hall. Last year we hosted 524 different events. And our staff is small.
Q: What do you consider your greatest contributions to the PAC?
A: I advocated for an online presence when people were saying “no one will ever buy tickets online.” The PAC was one of the first 15 performing arts centers in the country with a website. The most visible contribution is the lighting of the building. It’s difficult now to remember when the building was dark, except for the lighting under the canopy entrances.
I’d like to believe that my greatest contribution was to document the PAC’s history. Fifteen years ago I conducted extensive oral histories of all those involved in the PAC’s creation, and on our 30th anniversary, five years ago, we filmed John Williams, Robert LaFortune and Charles Norman telling the story. We’ve lost Mr. Norman since then. Our history is an important part of Tulsa’s history, and I am proud to have preserved it and played a small part.