Collegiate performing arts centers are exciting places. Their productions are culturally diverse, artistically important, and typically involve the hard work of students.
It's the students' participation that makes these productions so electrifying. What the students lack in experience, they make up for it with energy, enthusiasm, and youthful fearlessness.
The following 35 university performing arts centers are the best places in the United States to see dynamic student productions as well as those by world renowned artists. These centers sit at the intersection of passion, profession, and learning.
Furthermore, all the performing centers on our list are beautiful places to enjoy the arts, regardless of whether you're experiencing a theatrical or musical production. These centers have the aesthetic, acoustic, and technological qualities necessary for an unforgettable show.
Our selections are found at colleges and universities from all corners of the United States. Some institutions have a few hundred students, like the Soka University of America, while others have tens of thousands, like the University of Minnesota.
Some of our entries are regionally known schools, like Delta State University, while others are synonymous with the college experience, like Notre Dame.
Regardless of notoriety or enrollment size, all 35 performing arts centers listed below are worth your effort, money, and time to visit and immerse yourself in a wonderful performance.* Top header image credit: Bologna Performing Arts Center - Photo by Delta State University Photographer Rory Doyle
Garden City, New Jersey
Adelphi University Performing Arts Center is home to five astounding spaces: Black Box theater, Concert Hall, Dance theater, Olmsted theater, and Recital Hall. The chic Concert Hall is the largest. It has a maximum capacity of 482. The Olmsted theater seats 315. All five spaces are intimate and decked out with the latest technology. As soon as you enter you'll feel like you're in a haven of creativity.
University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL)
St. Louis, Missouri
Every year, the gorgeous Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center hosts more than 200 performances and 100,000 guests. Found on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, The Touhill contains three venues: the 1,600-seat Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall, the 375-seat E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater, and the 250-seat Whitaker Hall. This is a state of the art facility with old world charm.
The Lee Theater from the Gallery Photo credit: August Jennewein Photo, courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Delta State University
What should you expect while attending a show at the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University? Expect a comfortable and tony facility with excellent acoustics and sight lines. The Delta & Pine Land theater seats 1,171 while the Recital Hall seats 145. The entire complex consumes 41,500 square feet. It opened on the first day of September in 1995.
The Avett Brothers performing at the Bologna Performing Arts Center.
Photo by Delta State University Photographer Rory Doyle Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Clemson, South Carolina
The Brooks Center for the Performing Arts contains an inviting 979-seat proscenium auditorium and a charming 100-seat black box theater. Established in 1994, the Brooks Center is the heart of Clemson's performing arts scene. The facility, which spans 87,000-square-feet, hosts professional and student performances in the medium of dance, theater, and music.
The Brooks Center. Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Penn State's Center for the Performing Arts is built on the core values of excellence, service, innovation, stewardship, and inclusivity. Many of their events are presented at the Eisenhower Auditorium. With a capacity of 2,500, it's the university's main theatrical performance space. The venue is named after a president, but not the one you might think. The auditorium is named after former University President Milton S. Eisenhower.
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is comprised of the Cafritz Foundation theater, the Dance theater, the Dekelboum Concert Hall, the Gildenhorn Recital Hall, the Kay theater, and the Kogod theater. Together, these six spaces can serve around 2,500 patrons. The Dekelboum Concert Hall is the largest (seats 962) and visitors marvel at its high ceiling and mesmerizing architecture.
The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Enjoy everything from opera to dance at Emerson College's Cutler Majestic theater. The venue opened in 1903 and still has all the aesthetic qualities you'd expect from a building that's north of a century. Don't be fooled by its gold finishes and red marble. The Majestic has the technology to handle any production. Make sure you arrive early so you can spend some time gawking at the theater's decor.
Notre Dame University
Notre Dame, Indiana
The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center was built for $64 million. It's worth every penny. The facility spans 150,000 square feet and contains five performance venues. Inside you'll find a scene shop, rehearsal hall, and 28 faculty offices. The DeBartolo hosts works in theater, dance, and music and is the epicenter of performing arts in North Indiana.
University of Oklahoma
The building was built in 1918 and originally called “The Auditorium.” It was renamed “Holmberg Hall” in 1938. The venue received its current name, Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, in 2005 following a major renovation. The performing arts center is reminiscent of an Old-World concert hall but has all the necessary conveniences of a 21st century venue.
West Lafayette, Indiana
The Visual and Performing Arts department at Purdue University oversees four performance spaces: Elliott Hall of Music, Loeb Playhouse, Fowler Hall, and the Slayter Center for the Performing Arts. Elliott Hall is a simple but welcoming venue that seats 6,005. This makes it one of the largest proscenium theaters in the nation. The venue opened in 1940.
Weird Al Yankovic at Elliott Hall of Music
University of Montana
Lyle Lovett, The Moscow Ballet, and Jesse Jackson are just some of the performers who have graced the stage at the George & Jane Dennison Theatre. The building opened in 1935 and was the first structure on the campus to be built with money from the Public Works Administration enacted during the Great Depression. You'll find this magnificent performance venue connected to the university's fine arts building.
Brigham Young University
Harris Fine Arts Center officially opened in 1964. The facility contains over 100 rooms. The largest room in the HFAC is the de Jong Concert Hall. It seats 1,269 and hosts major concert and musical theater performances. Other rooms include the Madsen Recital Hall, Margetts theater, Nelke theater, and the Pardoe theater. The HFAC is a striking building that will leave you in awe.
George Mason University
George Mason University utilizes a surfeit of performance spaces. A venue they are particularly proud of is the Hylton Performing Arts Center. It's a beautiful space and a memorable venue to enjoy a performance. You'll find the Hylton on the university's Science and Technology campus. The center boasts a picturesque 1,100-seat opera house and a 275-seat theater. While there, check out the Buchanan Partners Art Gallery.
Boca Raton, Florida
The Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center is located on the campus on Lynn University. This stylish venue, with sleek lines and amazing acoustics, seats 750. Its marquee frequently announces exciting concerts and top dramatic productions. For productions that need a more intimate space, there's the Schmidt Family Studio. The PAC was dedicated in the spring of 2010.
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
In 1930, the University of Utah celebrated the opening of Kingsbury Hall. In 1996, the venue enjoyed a $14 million renovation. In 2015, UtahPresents was formed to bring significant artistic and cultural performances to the university and the community. Inside, you'll find the 1,913-seat Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium. Flanking the auditorium's stage are two very memorable large murals.
Kingsbury Hall. Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Oregon State University
LaSells Stewart Center boasts 40,000 square feet of conference and performance space. OSU puts this square footage to good use by hosting and producing music recitals, lectures, and other culturally significant events. The main auditorium seats 1,200 while its lecture hall supports 200. Also, at the LaSells Stewart Center is the Willamette Valley's most impressive art gallery.
Indiana University Bloomington
The Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center began collecting tickets in 2002. Two performance spaces are inside its walls—the Wells-Metz Theatre and the Ruth N. Halls Theatre—as well as workshop areas and acting studios. Wells-Metz accommodates 246 patrons while Halls Theatre seats 453. The Norvelle is a comfortable and welcoming facility with state-of-the-art amenities.
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
The Lied Center for Performing Arts opened in 1990 with a production of Madama Butterfly. Today, it's a technologically advanced performing arts center replete with spaces for education. The Lied Center not only serves the students of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but the surrounding community. On the west side of the facility you'll find the 216-seat Johnny Carson Theater. “You are correct, sir!”
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
The Marjorie Goodhart Hall is probably the most fascinating venue on our list. It's the lone Gothic revival college theater in the country. Its high arches will take your breath away. The building was built in 1928 and is now used for performing arts and college events. Other venues at Bryn Mawr College include the McPherson Auditorium and the Hepburn Teaching Theater.
The Marjorie Goodhart Hall. Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
The Moss Arts Centers covers 150,000 square feet where Virginia Tech's campus and downtown Blacksburg converge. This extraordinary facility is more than a performance center. It's a launch pad for artists to create, inspire, and discover. The mind-blowing Anne and Ellen Fife theater, in the Street and Davis Performance Hall, billets 1,274. Don't pass up a chance to attend the unbelievable four-story experimental Cube.
University of Virginia
Stately columns greet you as you approach the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. The backdrop for this intimate performance space is George Breck's copy of the "School of Athens." The murals in the lobby were inspired by his work. Cabell Hall has truly earned the honorific of “old.” The building opened in 1898. It's also the home of the McIntire Department of Music and the university's main concert hall.
South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
South Dakota State University's Performing Arts Center is unique in that it has an in-house audio recording service named Campanile Records. Other facilities inside the PAC include the Larson Memorial Concert Hall, the Fishback Studio theater, and the Roberts Reception Hall. The entire state-of-the-art facility is a joint project between the university and the city of Brookings.
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi, Texas
The Performing Arts Center on the campus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi facility dazzles eyes with vistas of the Corpus Christi Bay. Inside, the 1,350-seat Concert Hall dazzles ears with its world class acoustics. Over the years, the PAC has welcomed dozens of renowned artists to its stage including Van Cliburn, Itzhak Perlman, and Frederica von Stade.
Providence, Rhode Island
The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts is a breathtaking performance center. It will make your jaw fall to the floor. You might as well keep your jaw there, because its insides elicit the same response. The 35,000 square-foot facility, which opened in 2011, is characterized by crisp acoustics, floor-to-ceiling windows, and raised zinc panels. The Granoff is home to the university's innovated Brown Arts Initiative.
University of Minnesota
The Rarig Center sits at the core of the University of Minnesota's West Bank Arts Quarter. The building is bold and daring, some even say ominous. Inside, however, is a trove of fantastic spaces including a quartet of performance theaters and a collection of studios for the campus radio station. Rarig's theaters have ample space for performers and spectators as well as the latest audio and stage technology.
Outside of the Rarig Center. Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
St Bonaventure, New York
The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts commenced in 1995. Since then, it has quickly become a renowned and respected performing arts education facility and a regional hub for expression and engagement. The jewel of the Quick Center is the 321-seat Rigas Family Theater. Among the venue's other spaces are the F. Donald Kenney Museum & Art Study Wing, and areas for the visual arts.
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts racked up construction costs of $62 million. That sounds like a lot until you realize it was designed by Frank Gehry. His building, with curved, metallic surfaces, is absolutely stunning. From the start, the Fisher Center was heralded as one of the best small concert halls in the United States. If you can only visit one theater on our list, this might be it.
The Davis Performing Arts Center books all kinds of artistic endeavors but generally favors the theater. Recently, the Davis hosted the very successful Tennessee Williams Centennial Festival. The center opened in 2005 and is the first building on the Georgetown campus designed solely for arts education. It contains the proscenium Gonda Theatre and the black box Devine Theatre.
Michigan Technological University
If your haunt is the Western Upper Peninsula, you probably already know about the fabulous Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. This awe-inspiring facility schedules performances by both national and university performers in the mediums of dance, theater, music, and film. This 80,000 square-foot facility might be the toughest building on our list. Its roof can hold 450 pounds of snow per square foot.
Backstage at the Rozsa Center. Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Ithaca, New York
The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts consists of the Kiplinger Theatre with a seating capacity of 446-471), the Class of '56 Flexible Theatre (with a seating capacity of 150-175), the Film Forum (100 seats in a proscenium set up), the Class of '56 Dance Studio Theatre, the Black Box Theatre, and acting classrooms and dance studios too. Serving students, the city of Ithaca, as well as the region, the Schwartz Center and its marble walls annually greet more than 20,000 attendees.
Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
Soka University of America
Aliso Viejo, California
The Soka Performing Arts Center welcomes patrons with a bright, open foyer. The intimate performance area seats a 1,000 and its acoustics were designed by the great Yasuhisa Toyota. You can feel good about attending a performance at the Soka. The building gets about 15 percent of its electrical needs from solar panels installed on its roof.
Forest Grove, Oregon
Whether you're a budding musician or a music aficionado, you'll thoroughly enjoy the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center at Pacific University. The 400-seat recital hall has world-class sonic qualities. The hall is packed with features for performers, spectators, and students. Since opening in 1993, Taylor-Meade has welcome venerated performers from every corner of the globe.
Weber State University
Every year, the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts receives around 20,000 patrons and hosts around 300 events. Patrons visit the Browning Center to experience culturally relevant productions in the Austad Auditorium, the Allred Theater, and the Eccles Theater: a black box. The two-tier Austad Auditorium seats 1,408. The center is home to the Weber State University Department of Performing Arts.
The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts contains four spaces: the Ethel M. Barber Theater, the Josephine Louis Theater, the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, and the Mussetter-Struble Theater. These wonderful performance spaces range in size from 400 to 439 seats. Every year, the Wirtz Center presents around 40 productions.
For more than three decades, the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University has welcomed world class artists to central Pennsylvania. When attending a performance at the Weis Center you'll be greeted by classic brick, glass walls, interesting arches, and a polite staff. The Weis Center has awesome acoustics and seats 1,200.
Photo courtesy of venue's Facebook page.
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