"This last year has been one big transition," said John Lewis, executive director of Park PAC. "This is the first time we have programmed a full season since 2002. We are doing 10 concerts all together, as well as school programs, and [we're still doing] the Passion Play."
Once the venue for big name acts such as George Carlin, who performed his stand-up comedy routine there in the 1980s, Park PAC has been under-utilized for years with the exception of a few shows throughout the year, and, of course, the traditional Passion Play that continues to draw thousands each December.
Now Park PAC is witnessing a rebirth with the Board of Directors finally taking over the reigns from the Archdiocese of Newark, who owns the facility, offering variety of acts and musical performances to bring the theater back to its heyday.
"We're tying to revamp the center and make it what it was about 10 years ago, and hopefully beyond," said Lewis. "We see ourselves serving two communities. We're still focusing on our local community, which is our core, and promoting the space for local artists. Then we also want to eventually serve the entire North Hudson County area and provide diverse programming."
Time to dance
Kicking off the fall season will be the Grammy-nominated Latin band Tiempo Libre. The Miami-based group is quickly becoming one of the hottest rising bands in Latin music with their mix of high-voltage Latin jazz and the seductive rhythms stemming from their Cuban roots.
"Sine Union City has such a high Cuban and Latin American population, we wanted to bring Tiempo Libre, who has been winning acclaim across Europe and South America," said Lewis. "They are a pretty classy act to bring in here."
Schooled at several conservatories throughout Havana, the group, which has been performing since 2001, has enjoyed a thriving career throughout the world, performing in concert halls to jazz clubs and touring and recording with some of Latin music's most recognized performers, such as Cachao and DLG (Dark Latin Groove).
In 2006 Tiempo Libre was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Salsa/Merengue Album for their debut album "Arroz Con Mango," which was released by Shanachie Entertainment.
Tiempo Libre will be doing a one-night performance at Park PAC on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m.
What's also playing?
Also coming up on Friday, Oct. 27, will be Ginga Brasileira, who will be bringing their Capoeira stylings to Park PAC. Capoeira is a unique art form developed by African slaves in the 16th Century that integrates dance and self-defense in a mesmerizing and fast-paced choreographed routine.
Then on Friday, Nov. 17, audiences can relish the vocal stylings of yesteryear with the performances of two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees: Charlie Thomas, formerly of the Drifters, who were known in the 1950s for hits such as "Under the Boardwalk and "Up on the Roof," and Shirley Alston Reeves, the original lead singer of the 1960s girl group The Shirelles, who were made famous by such hits as "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"
On Sunday, Nov. 19, Park PAC will also celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Center for Modern Dance Education with performances by Claire Porter, the Seventh Principle Dance Company, and the hip-hop flair of Rennie Harris' Puremovement.
Rounding out the season on Dec. 16 will be a performance of Tony Kenney's Christmas Time in Ireland, a show for the whole family featuring the Dublin City Dancers, singers, and comedy routines to raise the holiday spirit.
"This is our year to really branch out and to make sure that people know that we are here," said Lewis. "We want everyone to come back to the Park PAC."
For more information on the upcoming shows or for tickets, visit www.parkpac.org or call (201) 865-6980.