Nearly $1 million under budget and substantially complete, the Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center is in full swing – literally.
The $33 million building has been in full use since early August – other than the seating in the Shell Theatre, said Ginny Medina-Hamilton, director of Gifted, Talented and the Arts.
“Though performances are an important part of arts education, there is more to the Lafon Arts Center than the performances for the public,” she said. “The first responsibility of the Lafon Arts Center is arts education. There are many other events that have taken place at the center where our students were creating, presenting, performing, responding and connecting through the arts that were not necessarily public performances.”
Theater seating became a problem last year when the manufacturer declared bankruptcy, but Medina-Hamilton said the stage has been used for rehearsals, as well as holiday and community arts events.
John Rome Jr., chief plant services and security officer, said the first shipment of seats has arrived and are being installed. Per the architect and contractor, the next shipment is expected to arrive early this month. The contractor should install remaining components within 15 to 20 days.
“The Shell theatre seating is the only major component that is currently not completed,” Rome said. “There are some minor punch list items and some permanent interior and exterior signage that needs to be installed. The punch list items and outstanding signage installation do not have any effect on the functionality of the facility.”
Center Director Chris Melohn said they’ve hosted many events this year, including school concerts, theatre performances and district-wide arts workshops.
“We have had touring productions such as Til Birnam Wood and Ken Waldman who not only performed, but worked with our students in workshops and residencies,” Melohn said.
Some of the school concerts and program performances have included choir concerts and band concerts.
Melohn said they’ve also hosted plays and musicals since the beginning of the school year, including Harry Hurst’s “Game of Tiaras,” J.B. Martin’s “Nightfall” and “And Then They Came for Me,” Albert Cammon’s “Once on this Island,” and Destrehan High School’s “Grease!”
“We are slated to host St. Rose’s production of ‘Annie’ and Destrehan’s ‘Peter Pan’ this spring, as well as moving our PALSS Children’s Theatre Series to the Shell Theatre once the seating is fully installed,” he said.
St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ Visual Art Gallery was held Feb. 28 at the center, and the art will be available for viewing through March 16. Also, the 11th annual ArtsFest will be held on March 16.
The center is bringing in BritBeat (a Beatles tribute band), Daniel Martin (a magician/mentalist) and a spotlight summer intensive musical theatre program for students who will be entering grades 3 – 12 in the fall.
Collectively, Medina-Hamilton said the center is averaging 150 to 500 students in and out of the building each week between rehearsals, performances, workshops and full-time classes.
Every day, there are six classes of students in the arts center: Advanced TV and Broadcasting, Interactive Media, and Digital Media. Each class has two sections.
There are also an influx of students attending programs at the center for field trips.
“The first responsibility of the Lafon Arts Center is arts education.” – Ginny Medina-Hamilton
The center also has housed Artsperiences with two events drawing about 800 attendees; school arts programs such as rehearsals and performances including 66 events and 4,000 attendees; Gifted, Talented and Arts events have included 18 student events with 2,500 attendees; 20 teacher events and meetings with about 150 attendees, and district events and collaborations including 15 events with 1,000 attendees.
Community Education has used the building, too.
Some 10 classes have been offered there with three different classes a week, each drawing about 30 people a week.
The Lafon center has even had six rental events, two company meetings, and Destrehan and Hahnville high school ring ceremonies.
The Dr. Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center
- In July of 2016, a ground breaking ceremony is held for the center.
- Features include a two-story educational wing plus black box theatre, dance studio and 1,300 seat Shell Theatre.
- Only one of its kind in Louisiana.
- Annual SCPPS ArtsFest to be held March 16, 2019, for first time at Lafon Arts Center.