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Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts sets inaugural season

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At the moment, it's still just a construction site located at the tony intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Canon Drive in Beverly Hills.

But come this fall, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is expected to finally open its doors with a gala celebration in October and a first public production in November featuring the Martha Graham Dance Company.

More than a decade in the making, the Annenberg Center will have an estimated final price tag of $70 million. It will occupy the renovated and expanded historic Beverly Hills post office, transformed by Zoltan Pali of the SPF architectural firm into a gleaming, 2.5-acre complex featuring two theater spaces. (An underground parking lot is already in use.)

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The money for construction was raised privately, and the center is leasing the property from the city of Beverly Hills for the token sum of $100 per year. The center is named after Los Angeles philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, who made an initial gift to the organization of $15 million, followed by a second gift of $10 million.

The gala opening is set to take place over two nights on Oct. 17 and 18. The opening event is being co-chaired by Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, along with Jamie Tisch and Annenberg. The inaugural production is set for Nov. 8-9 in the 500-seat Goldsmith Theater. 

Lou Moore, the center's executive director, said in an interview that the organization will not only present pieces by other companies, but will also produce or co-produce original stage material.

"Given that we're a 500-seat venue, it made a lot of sense that we be the kind of facility where work can be created and move on after that to different venues," Moore said. 

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The center's operating budget for its first season is expected to be about $8 million, according to a spokesman.

Among the scheduled works are "Parfumerie" (Nov. 26-Dec. 22), a new production of the play directed by Mark Brokaw; and Ricky Ian Gordon's opera "A Coffin in Egypt" (April 23-27), in a co-production with the Houston Grand Opera and Opera Philadelphia.  

The Annenberg will also feature a 150-seat space called the Lovelace Studio Theatre that will host performances geared toward children as well as other intimate productions.

The main-stage season is also to include the St. Lawrence String Quartet (Jan. 15); the recent Broadway revival of Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter" (Feb. 15-Mar. 23), created by Britain's Kneehigh Theatre; Baseball Swing with the All-Star Baseball Jazz Band (April 4-6); a stage adaptation of "The Trumpet of the Swan" (May 2-4) and Jessica Lang Dance (May 30-31).

The spokesman for the center said additional productions will be added to the season once they are finalized.

ALSO: 

Annenberg Center construction set for April

Dream approaches reality for Beverly Hills arts center

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