SHIPPENSBURG >> This year is the 10th anniversary for H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center in Shippensburg.
Over the past nine years, Luhrs Center, on the campus of Shippensburg University, has seen many notable performances, from country singer Loretta Lynn to classical violinist Joshua Bell. It is a testimony to the theory that if you build it, people will come.
After all, here is this magnificent 1,500-seat theater in the land-locked town of Shippensburg and, with the quality of its presentations, it draws audiences not only from the immediate area but also up and down the east coast and into Canada.
It's the variety of what is on stage that attracts people — shows for every taste. "We have an eclectic offering of shows," said Luhrs director, Dr. Leslie Folmer Clinton.
Let's look at what is in store for the coming season — comedy, rock music, magic, country and pop music, children's programming, lectures and dance classes.
The season opens with Kevin James, better known for his role on the television comedy series, "The King of Queens," and as star of the film "Paul Blart, Mall Cop." After the acclaim he has received, James performs his comedy routine as though he were just cracking the clubs on Long Island, where he started his career. Clinton, a big James fan, noted that his work attracts a wide audience, as his style of humor is not off-color. That's what appeals to her, too.
Other attractions for this anniversary season are Peter Frampton, famed guitarist, joined by his son, Julian. We'll see Three Dog Night, Paul Anka, The Tenors, Celtic Women (part of their Christmas Tour), River City Brass, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, a special honoring Frank Sinatra — and that is just a hint of the musical acts that will be performing.
From Broadway comes a production of that toe-tapping hit "42nd Street" and "Million Dollar Quartet."
Family-friendly shows for younger children include "Junie B's Essential Survival Guide to School" and "Skippyjon Jones Snow What (& the 7 Chihuahuas)."
Just the name of this well-done spoof is great fun; the show's got to be a blast!
Asia is represented with such astounding acts as "Yamato: The Drummers of Japan," "Bakkuon: Legend of the Hertbeat" and The Peking Acrobats' "Year of the Monkey Celebration."
Two events both fulfilling in their own way will be an evening with animal advocate Jack Hanna, who will regale with tales of his experiences; and Hill Harper, formerly of "CSI-New York" (and graduate of Harvard Law School) who will speak on "Building a Foundation for Your Life," part of Shippensburg University's H.O.P.E. Diversity Scholarship Program.
And for everyone who has always wanted to be on stage themselves, Luhrs Center continues to offer ballroom dance lessons, Monday nights beginning Oct. 19. The classes, for beginning and advanced students, will be taught by local professional, Frank Hancock.
A special event to support the center will be hosted April 2. The "Luhrs Circle of Friends Gala" acknowledges patrons of the center's activities.
Of course, one of the most well-known patrons is the man who gave his name to the building, H. Ric Luhrs, formerly president and CEO of The Beistle Corp. Luhrs, along with former SU president Tony Ceddia and SU Foundation president John Clinton, were the brains behind the center's formation, said Luhrs' widow, Grace Luhrs. "They all thought it would be wonderful to have a performing arts center in Shippensburg, plus it brought together the community and the university."
She was a little skeptical at first, as it was a big undertaking and she was unsure that it would generate public support; but "people have really utilized it," she said. "My biggest regret is that my husband did not live to see it finished. He was definitely a visionary."
The numbers tell the tale of success. "We have had 300 performances and 59 sell-outs," said Clinton."Over the last nine years, more than 200,000 people have been to our events and greeted by some 100 volunteers. We are also fortunate in the theater design; there is not a bad seat in the house."
The 70,000 square foot building includes the university's music and theater departments. It is so well-thought out, by Philadelphia architects H2L2, that it provides generous facilities for both on-stage acts and backstage crew.
"Performers have such a positive experience, that they comment on how well the production staff treats them," said Clinton.
The Center is also used for many other functions, such as conferences and professional meetings, university and high school events — even weddings.
Clinton said, "We tell people, 'Decide what show or shows to attend and come; this is more of an experience than just going to a show.'"
For a season schedule and more information about the 10th anniversary season, visit www.luhrscenter.com.