My family loves to go to the Beverly Hills Library and the Sunday Farmer’s Market on Civic Center Dr., and we have enjoyed watching the ongoing construction of a new, contemporary building between Crescent Drive and Canon Drive. My three boys would marvel at the enormous building and clever scaffolding that surrounded the construction site, and often asked ”What is that and when can we go?”
In October 2013, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors. Home to two distinct, elegant buildings, the construction pairs best of old and new with the addition of the new, contemporary 500-seat, state-of-the-art Bram Goldsmith Theater and transformation of the treasured 1933 Beverly Hills Post Office into the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater, a theater school for young people, a gift shop (both opening soon) and a café. Known as The Wallis, it is the first performing arts center to be built in Beverly Hills, and is a home for artists from around the world, and welcomes audiences of every age.
The building is gorgeous, and kids can imagine what the post office used to look like because the structure that faces Santa Monica Boulevard remains intact. The newer building is austere from the outside, but the interior courtyards are all glass and provide a contrast to the more foreboding castle-like walls.
The Wallis is a perfect destination stop on a day in Beverly Hills with the family. Here’s a secret: you can park readily under the structure (Valet or Self Parking provides a welcome oasis in the crowded city), and you’re in easy walking distance to some of Beverly Hill’s finest, family-friendly establishments. What kid doesn’t want a Bagel on a String from Nate‘N Al Delicatessen? Kids also love Mulberry Street Pizza and for dessert, there’s Sprinkles Cupcakes and Ice Cream, just a few blocks away.
For their first venture into the theaters of the Wallis, we took the four and five year-old boys to see a production of ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ from Scotland’s Puppet State Theatre Company, which is based on French author Jean Giono’s 1953 environment-themed classic, The Lovelace Studio Theatre is designed with stadium seating, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house; this is helpful because small children usually complain that they can’t see in most theaters.
‘The Man Who Planted Trees,’ tells the inspiring story of a shepherd who, accompanied by his dog, transforms a barren wasteland in to a forest, planting it acorn by acorn. As much a touching tale as it is a hilarious puppet show, The Man Who Planted Trees shows the difference one man (and his dog!) can make. Both of my boys were fascinated by the story, but really enjoyed the dog puppet’s interaction with the narrator most. For older children, ages 7 and up, there are interactive events during the public performances; The Wallis will be collaborating with The Tree People, an environmental nonprofit that unites the power of trees, people and technology to grow a sustainable future for Los Angeles. These workshops will be held on October 18th & 19th at 1pm. In these workshops, participants will create a character by building a simple puppet and then, using improvisation, bring the puppet to life! This 45-minute interactive workshop will be taught by members of The Wallis’ stellar teaching artist team, and will take place in The Wallis’ classrooms.
Upcoming programming designed for the ‘Theater for Young Audiences’ is ideal for children of all ages and adults. Click here for details on upcoming shows. From the architectural history of the new and old buildings, the experience of going to see a live theatrical production, interactive workshops, and some of the best food within just a few blocks, The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts was worth the wait.
Written by Lori Gray