Valley Performing Arts Center: Theater's New Play Date Series for LA Families

As a native Angeleno, I pride myself on having been to most of our local venues at least once in my life, but recently I discovered one that is brand new to me: The Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge. VPAC, as those in the know call it, is in fact a fairly recent addition to our cultural scene, having begun its inaugural season in 2011. VPAC is a light, bright, large theater with comfortable seating and easy and affordable parking (including a free shuttle for those who need it). While Valley residents must surely appreciate this addition to their neighborhood, those of us living on the Westside, Hollywood, or beyond can also enjoy it for years to come. Though Northridge sounds far away, it really took us less than half an hour to get there from the Westside and was well worth the trip—particularly for the debut a marvelous new family series, the VPAC Play Date, featuring a range of performances geared towards children and their families.

The season opener was a breathtaking performance by the National Acrobats and Circus of the People’s Republic of China. Upcoming events include folk duo The Okee Dokee Brothers, Stomp, music and dance from the Scots Guards, Peter and the Wolf, and a free performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

The kids and I were mesmerized by the Chinese Acrobats. The athleticism of these performers and the beauty of their presentation are quite astonishing. The artists contort, juggle, balance, and fly. My daughter is not a sitter but she was rooted to her seat, riveted by everything she saw on stage. The presentation was beautiful with music, costumes, and sets all uniquely Chinese; and the suspense built as each feat was more impressive than the last. When the lights came up for intermission, there was an audible gasp of disappointment from the audience. The second act was shorter but equally thrilling, culminating in the classic set piece Balancing on High Chairs. Hopefully, little ones won’t be tempted to try this at home, at least not without some instruction.

During the intermission, our kids got to practice their own gymnastics, as the theater is surrounded by an inviting grass lawn. Kids of all ages ran around, did cartwheels, and generally expended energy before returning to their seats. When I was a child growing up in Los Angeles, going to the theater meant dressing up in itchy fancy clothes and heading to the Music Center Downtown—which at the time was a quite desolate location: no Grand Park, no museums, and Chinatown was the only place to eat. Though some of that culture must have had a positive effect on me, as I am now dragging my own children to these kinds of events, I do remember dreading the experience of theater going. I don’t think my own kids will feel the same way about any of our venues these days (including the ones in DTLA), but The Valley Performing Arts Center is a particularly welcoming environment for children experiencing theater for the first time.

While we here at Mommy Poppins are especially interested in the family friendly Play Date series, the 2015-16 season at VPAC has many upcoming events in its regular calendar which are worth checking out as well. The eclectic offerings include silent film screenings, Mariachi music, and an evening with NPR’s Sara Koenig and Julie Snyder of Serial fame. This month, just in time for Halloween, there is a theatrical performance of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Definitely not for young kids, but maybe something cool to do with the teenagers in your life.

The Valley Performing Arts Center
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
(818) 677-8800


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