Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts' Lou Moore on Debut Season (Q&A)

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

The executive director of the $70 million complex envisions the Beverly Hills facility as a bridge between Hollywood and L.A.'s theater community: "We want to be the incubator where that happens."

When the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts premieres Oct. 17 with a gala co-chaired by Jamie Tisch and Los Angeles philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, Beverly Hills will finally have the cultural center envisioned by the city's leaders in 1994, when converting the shuttered Beverly Hills post office was first proposed.

The Annenberg comprises the 500-seat Goldsmith Theater, housed in a new structure designed by SPF Architects, as well as a 150-seat studio, classrooms and other facilities located in the original 1934 Italian Renaissance-style library, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The $70 million project was financed by private donations and a $25 million gift from Los Angeles philanthropist Wallis Annenberg.

THR recently spoke with Lou Moore, the center's executive director, about the Annenberg's mission and what to expect during its inaugural season.

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What kind of support did you receive from Hollywood?

In terms of the entertainment industry, I think they were very supportive. We find that the companies, agencies, producers do make the financial donations. The performers give us their time, which is what they're doing for the gala. All in all, I think it's sensational how everyone is stepping in.

There hasn't been a lot of crossover between Hollywood and the Los Angeles theater community, Disney Hall and the Geffen Playhouse notwithstanding.

I started the Geffen Playhouse with Gil Cates. So we had a lot of Hollywood very much  behind us from the very beginning. We're already talking to the artistic community about projects. 

The budget for your first season is $8 million. What will you present?

We are certainly not the avant-garde. We are more mainstream. So the work that's done at UCLA or Red Cat, which is terrific, that's not the kind of work [we do]. One of my missions is to provide, as much as possible, additional programs that enhance what you're experiencing from the stage. For example, we're bringing in [Noel Coward's] Brief Encounter, from London, by the Kneehigh Theatre. It's just the most inventive and creative work I've seen in a long time. It's just stunning. At the same time, in the studio theater is a production of Coward's Love Letters. When we do the play Parfumerie, the first show we're mounting, in the studio space will be an exhibition of perfume.

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Do you plan to produce original productions? What about partnering with other regional theaters?

We have our own rehearsal space, costume shop, prop shop so it is very much in our plan to produce and create work as well as present it. La Jolla [Playhouse] and South Coast [Repertory] are colleagues, and there are already some shows we're in discussion with La Jolla about and [San Diego's] Old Globe, where we might partner in productions.

Have you gotten feedback on the center from prospective directors or producers?

We gave [Jersey Boys director] Des McAnuff, who did a lot of work in La Jolla that went to New York, a tour of the facility and he loved it. He said, "Oh, my God. It's just like La Jolla." He was thrilled because he could do the same kind of work in our theater.

Beverly Hills would seem to be an advantageous location.

Something that is the heart and soul of this city is to create, and given the fact that we're in Beverly Hills in the heart of the entertainment community, we want to be an incubator where that happens. This whole center came to be because the community so loved the post office and wanted to turn it back to public use and always wanted a theater. So it was a perfect dream come true to have a building right next to city hall that could fulfill a need.