The Tobin Center for Performing Arts will welcome Gladys Knight as the special guest of its Oct. 24 gala.
The Tobin Center for Performing Arts will welcome Gladys Knight as the special guest of its Oct. 24 gala. Credit: Flickr / This is Awkward

Ready to celebrate five years in operation, the Tobin Center for Performing Arts will welcome “a true legend” as the special guest of its Oct. 24 gala.

At its special 2019-2020 season announcement Wednesday night, Tobin Center President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Fresher said “empress of soul” Gladys Knight will perform for the special cabaret-style evening event.

The Tobin Center’s H-E-B Performance Hall was arranged in similar cabaret-style for the season announcement, offering a glimpse of elegant satin-draped tables where the regular row seating is normally positioned. Fresher said tickets for the fundraising gala are already going fast.

Music, theatrical, and speaking events will be scheduled through the 2019-2020 season in addition to performances by the seven Tobin Center resident companies (The Children’s Chorus of San Antonio, Youth Orchestras of San Antonio, San Antonio Symphony, Ballet San Antonio, Opera San Antonio, Classical Music Institute, and the San Antonio Chamber Choir). During the year, 285 days are reserved for resident company use of the center, leaving 80 days for other programming.

Aaron Zimmerman, vice president for programming and marketing. announced major events for those 80 days of the 2019-2020 season Wednesday.

After last year’s successful inaugural season, the National Geographic Live! series returns with three events offering culturally diverse glimpses of the world, Zimmerman said. Explorer and underwater photography specialist Brian Skerry will present Ocean Soul on Sept. 29, Charlie Hamilton James presents a tale of his Peruvian misadventures in I Bought a Rainforest on Jan. 12 and astrobiologist Kevin Hand reveals The Search for Life Beyond Earth on April 5, 2020.

The people have spoken, Zimmerman suggested, and the people want Broadway. After the current season’s string of full houses for Broadway performances, for its Signature Series the Tobin will present three musicals and one “Broadway Spectacle,” for a special three-performance run of STOMP: The International Sensation, Feb. 7-8.

Once won a 2012 Tony Award for best musical, and will take the stage Nov. 20 featuring its actors as its musical orchestra, and a working bar. Finding Neverland performs its Peter Pan-based tale Jan. 29 and Gershwin’s beloved An American in Paris plays March 1.

Beyond the onstage entertainment, the Tobin Center is focused on its patrons, said Rick Frederick, director of resident company and community engagement. “This whole year has been about identifying where we’re at and where we want to go,” Frederick said. One area of strength is audience engagement, he said.

“Let’s put our focus on the audience’s comfort as well as the great shows they’re seeing,” Frederick said, mentioning the in-house food options including Taste restaurant and menu service in the box seats.

Fresher concurred. “This needs to be a world-class experience” for patrons the moment they park their car to the moment they return to it after the show, he said.

The Tobin Center has come a long way since its opening in 2014, Fresher suggested. Five years ago almost to the day, he said, he stood with staff and patrons in a parking lot next to a construction site to announce the first season. Wednesday night, the center was bedecked in its usual dramatic lighting, with its smartly dressed volunteer staff serving drinks and handing out goody bags complete with Fiesta medals.

Information on the Fifth Anniversary Gala event featuring Knight is available on the Tobin Center website. Look for updates and additions to the 2019-2020 season event schedule to come.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...