Program Spotlight: Lenfest Center for the Arts The Lenfest Center is a multi-use facility designed and equipped to accommodate a broad spectrum of the performing arts.
The show must go on … campus! If there is a performing arts event on the Washington and Lee University campus, it usually occurs in the Lenfest Center for the Arts.
The Lenfest Center for the Arts, constructed in 1991, and named for Gerry ’53 and Marguerite Lenfest, is a multi-use facility designed and equipped to accommodate a broad spectrum of the performing arts, including theater, musical theater, opera and operetta, choral and band music, dance and performance art in one energizing complex. It also serves as the home of the Department of Theater, Dance, and Film Studies and the Department of Music and Department of Art and Art History.
Over the last two decades, the Lenfest Center has helped W&L provide the fine arts component of an exceptional liberal arts education. Housing more than 175 performances and events each year and hosting over 30,000 patrons, the center has become the region’s performing arts center. Countless rehearsals and an ongoing schedule of classes make the Lenfest Center a lively and dynamic educational facility.
“Part of our mission statement reads, ‘The primary goal of the Lenfest Center for the Arts and its staff is to enhance the artistic and academic life of Washington and Lee students and to enrich the cultural life of the university and surrounding community through the professional presentation of artistic events at the highest level,’ said Rob Mish, director of the Lenfest Center. “Since its doors opened in 1991, the arts footprint in Rockbridge County has increased exponentially. Imagine a Lexington without a fully staffed performance venue, one without current technical capabilities, and without an experienced technical team. That was a Lexington prior to 1991.”
The original building, now known simply as Lenfest Hall, features two theaters, the Keller Theatre, a 415-seat proscenium space, and the roughly 120-seat Johnson Theatre, a Black Box experimental space. Lenfest Hall includes a design lab, a rehearsal studio, faculty offices, as well as theatrical and dance-related support facilities, such as a scene shop, a costume shop, dressing rooms and modest storage.
The John and Anne Wilson Hall, which opened in 2006, is attached to the original Lenfest building and houses the university’s music and art departments. Wilson Hall contains a 300-seat state-of-the-art concert hall, which hosts the university’s many student, faculty and ensemble music groups and world-renowned concert artists. In addition, there are classrooms, faculty offices, a studio for each art medium, composition labs and numerous rehearsal rooms. The Lenfest Center is also home to the Staniar Art Gallery, an excellent venue for students, faculty and professional artists.
Tickets for the 2022 season at Lenfest Center went on sale starting Nov. 30, 2021, and program highlights for the 2022 season include “Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo,” a piano concert by Vadym Kholodenko, SonoKlect: Jasper Wood and David Riley, “Thumbelina” and the Robert O. and Elizabeth M. Bentley Musical: “All Shook Up.”
“Someone once said that there are three things that must exist to make theater,” said Mish. “One, a story; two, a person to tell the story; and three, an audience to hear the story. For nearly two years now performers and audiences have not been allowed to make their essential contributions to a basic human need — participating in storytelling. Across the world, people have been anxiously waiting for the day when we could perform live, in person, in front of a live audience. The energy and connection formed between live performers and a live audience cannot begin to compare to an impersonal, streamed performance on Zoom where there is no energy. There is no connection.”
Mish added, “Speaking as one who recently has had the chance to perform live, with no mask, and in front of a live, enthusiastic audience; I can say that it was one of the most refreshing and exhilarating experiences of my life!”
Read more about the upcoming season and buy your tickets online by visiting my.wlu.edu/lenfest-center/current-season.