Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lehman Center continues top notch shows

Lehman Center continues top notch shows

Eva Bornstein, Lehman Center Executive Director Speaks of its Past, Present and Future

By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 17- Later this month, the 34th-35th season of Lehman Center of the Performing Arts presentations of highly entertaining shows featuring world renowned performers will begin. This year the 10th anniversary of its executive director, Eva Bornstein, will also be celebrated. 
The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts is one of several world class institutions in the Bronx, like Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Garden which bring prestige to the borough and attract large numbers of visitors. These visitors economically benefit the businesses in the community and counter the distorted picture of the Bronx created by motion pictures and television in years past by informing their family and friends that the Bronx is a safe and pleasant place to visit and live.
In a recent phone interview, Bornstein described her goals for the institution after accepting the position of executive director in 2005, “I saw the potential of increasing ticket sales by targeting the Latino and African-American population of the Bronx.” She believed the programming was too heavily weighted to Riverdale residents.
Bornstein found altering the programming “led to a tremendous jump in attendance and an increase in the budget from $700,000 to $2,000,000. What you program has a tremendous influence.”
The upcoming season’s schedule is representative of an organization and its leadership that is desirous of being inclusive of the wide disparity of ethnic backgrounds of the population of the Bronx. Artists from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and, of course, the United States will be traveling to Lehman to perform.
The large quantity of Latino productions are varied and include several performers who have entertained audiences for decades. Danny Rivera, a very popular vocalist from Puerto Rico for nearly a half-century, will begin the series on September 20 with a number of guest performers who will join him. 
On October 25, Jose Alberto, “El Canario”, will reunite with La Tipica ’73 a group he fronted in the 1970’s. A group that is celebrating its 60th anniversary, La Sonora Ponceña featuring Papo Lucca on piano will perform on November 22.
Latin music other than salsa will also be heard at the 2,300 seat Lehman Concert Hall later in the season. February 14, Valentine’s Day can be celebrated by listening to the lush classical sounds of the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de Mexico. Eight days later, the sounds and dance steps of Tango Buenos Aires can be enjoyed.
Performers from around the globe will be in the Bronx to entertain. The sounds of the Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir will fill the auditorium on October 19. On November 9, the intricate gyrations of a group in existence since 1951, the National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China will dazzle the audience.
American music of various genres will be part of the forthcoming season. There will be a Doo Wop concert with music of the 1960’s on January 24, freestyle music of the 1980’s on March 7 and hip hop that began in the 1970’s on May 9. A new and experimental series of Broadway music under the direction of conductor Todd Ellison will reacquaint audiences with Broadway classics sung by stars of Broadway on three dates, October 11, March 21 and April 25. 
Two Russian dance companies will perform ballet classics that should be enticing for families to experience together. The Moscow Festival Ballet will perform Romeo and Juliet on March 15 and Swan Lake will be performed by the Russian National Ballet Theatre on April 12. Bornstein explained that “these productions give young people exposure to cultural events and create a new generation of theater-goers.” 
To further encourage families to bring children to the Concert Hall, tickets for children aged 12 and under are priced at $10 and several of the shows are scheduled on weekend afternoons, which are more convenient for families to attend.
Another important feature is the availability of public transportation. The D and 4 lines of the subways are minutes away at the Bedford Park Boulevard stop and many bus lines stop nearby. For those driving to Lehman, parking is available for an almost unbelievable $5. 
Prices for admittance are far below prices for shows of the same quality in Manhattan. Bornstein aims for the highest level of performers but “at prices our audiences can afford.” She explained, “It takes a lot of negotiating and persuasiveness and I have a long term relationship with a lot of agents and performers.” Her reputation over the years allowed her to obtain high end entertainers for lower ticket prices than in most other venues. She also credited the supportive audiences at Lehman for attracting performers to return. 
Bornstein advises individuals to keep up with the website, for additions to the schedule of shows. For further information one can also call the Box Office at 718-960-8833.
Of the future, Bornstein explained, “I have so many dreams, but we are contingent upon the funding. The economy has changed. Government has cut funding for the arts. We need a better involvement with local businesses and corporations. We are dependent upon ticket sales and private donations.”

It would be a shame for this public attraction to be forced to change any of its policies or decrease its number of yearly concerts. 

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