Gary Wang Dance Studio – Completed November, 2009
Made possible by a $14,100 gift by Friends of the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre
Natural light spills from arched windows across a gleaming honey-hued wood floor and is reflected by floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the opposite wall. Sky-blue walls and a lofted ceiling create a dance studio that seems to have been materialized right out of a child’s fantasy. The sight of this room filled with laughing students of the art of dance dispels all gloom instantly.
This story of this remarkable space began in 1993, when a gift from the Friends permitted the construction of the Gary Wang Library addition to the Children’s Theatre building. Funds for the new addition came from Friends donor Marjorie Wang McLaren, that she gave in honor of her father, a distinguished journalist and foreign correspondent. “My father taught me to be a morally responsible person who should care about and be generous towards those less fortunate than myself,” McLaren wrote. “He did many good things when he was alive; I am merely carrying the torch.”
The spacious addition was used as a library, conference room, and storage space, until current theatre Director Judge Luckey envisioned its transformation into a dance studio. Director Luckey approached the Friends, and a decision was made to fund the new dance studio.
“The city is delighted to receive this stunning gift from the Friends,” said Kelly Morariu, Assistant to the City Manager, said of the donation. “This is a perfect example of what Friends groups and the city can accomplish by working together to enhance our valued community assets.” It is also a perfect example of how our donations to the Friends of the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre can sustain and transform the Theatre for the benefit of our children and our community.
The Palo Alto Children’s Theatre has been home to the performing arts for generations. This dedicated dance space has allowed the Theatre to expand its educational offerings and serve an increasing number of children. When not in use for the Children’s Theatre range of professionally taught dance classes, the studio provides a delightful space for rehearsing lines, practicing songs, or choreography.
Auditorium Renovation – Completed December, 1998
Made possible by grants from the Packard Foundation
In 1984, Dr. Roy Ginsburg emerged from the Theatre on an extremely warm evening with a plea for air-conditioning and volunteered to head a fundraising effort to achieve this goal. A committee formed, chaired by Dr. Ginsburg, to chart a fundraising campaign named the Golden Anniversary Fund (in recognition that the 50th anniversary of Children’s Theatre was rapidly approaching).
The Golden Anniversary Committee developed an ambitious plan to greatly improve the Auditorium including expanding air conditioning to the entire building, re-covering, re-finishing and repairing auditorium seats, cleaning and sealing floors and laying new carpet. The Golden Anniversary Fund also included raising funds for a library and studio and rehearsal areas. The Committee also envisioned a permanent outdoor performance area for summer productions. Thanks to grants from the Packard Foundation obtained by the Friends, the original Children’s Theatre was renovated in 1998. The handsomely refurbished auditorium was dedicated on December 11, 1998 at a gala opening night performance of GODSPELL.
Magic Castle – Completed May, 1998
In addition to including refurbishment of the auditorium and the addition of a library, studio and rehearsal area, the Golden Anniversary Committee also envisioned a permanent outdoor performance area for summer productions. Birge Clark, the original architect for the Lucie Stern complex of buildings and the Children’s Theatre was consulted in regard to the proposed outdoor addition, which was designed by John Northway. The library and studio additions were completed in 1993, at which point fundraising began for the ambitious Magic Castle project.
On February 13, 1997, groundbreaking took place for the outdoor performance area, a workshop and a donor patio. Construction proceeded quickly and the completed buildings were dedicated on May 31, 1998. The outdoor performance area is known formally as the Roy A. Ginsberg Memorial Stage in recognition of Dr. Ginsberg’s leadership in this project, and informally as The Magic Castle. The workshop is known as the Ira Kushlan Workshop in recognition of a participant of the Theatre who died prematurely in a tragic lightning strike. The interior of the Magic Castle building has also been used as a performance area for more intimate, “in the round” productions, and is also known as the “Black Box Theatre”. A current goal of the Friends and the Theatre is a major renovation of this interior space to more effectively allow classes, rehearsals, and performances.