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Just the Ticket--Performing Arts With Heart

The performing arts are back--and you don't have to travel across the Hudson to access world-class entertainment. The Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) is an easy drive down Route 4 to Englewood and features an expansive repertoire of programs to suit any age and preference. Its majestic space was recently restored to its past grandeur thanks to an ongoing $15m capital campaign.  

Alex Diaz, Executive Director, says, "The theater was built in 1926 as a vaudeville house, and we were intentional on meticulously restoring the craftsmanship of this majestic space to its past grandeur. We've installed new lighting, sound, carpet, and seats and expanded the lobby. Now we have three bars where guests can relax while waiting for a show. People look around and take it all in—these are all the things that make the experience here incredible." Phase Two of the campaign will include improvements to the marquis, façade, and additional technical elements. Fundraising is ongoing to reach the $15m campaign goal.

Valerie Huttle, Chair of the bergenPAC board adds, "it’s an iconic building, so it was essential to keep the original ambiance, oculus, and paint colors. We’ve just rejuvenated it, and it looks fabulous.”

Alex was hired in 2010 as the Director of Education and was selected as the Executive Director in 2022. “Working at a non-profit, you wear multiple hats,” he says. “I love every aspect of my job here—from being on stage to producing shows to working with the development office and meeting new people.”

The theater is not only known for outstanding performances, but it has also become a resource for cultural and performing arts education. In 2005, a strategic plan was put into place to develop a solid educational program to expand opportunities for kids and adults to explore dance, theater, music, etc., with the belief that a cultural center should provide access to educational programs as well as performances.

Along with every other cultural venue, bergenPAC took a big hit during the pandemic. Alex explored every opportunity to keep the facility running during that time, including developing a full slate of virtual classes. “Students could take any class they wanted. It was important to provide stability and normalcy for them during that time. The arts are an outlet for kids.” They continue to offer virtual classes in voice, acting, and monolog coaching, to name a few.

Valerie adds, “we also have wonderful programs for kids with disabilities. The arts are a great social outlet. Performing gives a shy, withdrawn child an opportunity to shine. Kids with disabilities need a place to dance and sing, and we’ve seen excellent results with non-verbal children with autism. The impact of music positively affects them. Ali Stoker (of Ridgewood) was the first actress to win a Tony in a wheelchair. That type of success creates a role model for kids with disabilities. It’s more than therapy. Kids realize that they have special abilities throughout these programs.”

The bergenPAC Performing Arts School supports kids in all 70 Bergen County towns. Their educational programs are tuition-based, but no one is turned away due to their inability to pay. "We have a robust class schedule as well as outreach programs in public and private schools and theater and dance residencies,” says Alex.

Partnering with the FBI and other community-minded businesses, bergenPAC presented opioid-prevention racial justice programs; both were thought-provoking and impactful for students. “Kids need outlets to express themselves. They know they have a safe space and a home with us,” says Alex.

One of bergenPAC's success stories is Rachel Zegler, who was first cast in the theater’s production of Les Mis and then went on to star as Maria in their production of Westside Story. Rachel was later awarded the starring role in the Steven Spielberg remake of the iconic film.

Right down the street at One Depot Square, bergenPAC's education facility is located in the legendary Tony Bennett recording studio. After serving as a professional studio for scores of celebrities over the years, it now houses a recording studio, dance studio, four private music studios, and one early childhood studio for the bergenPAC Performing Arts School. “It just oozes with musicality,” says Alex.

bergenPAC’s contributions to the county and the state of New Jersey can’t go unnoticed. “It’s a hidden jewel,” says Valerie. “Now, with our restoration well underway and the stellar artists who perform here, we will continue to be a major venue in the state. The added bonus is that it’s a boon to downtown Englewood's local restaurants, florists, and retail shops.”

Go online and start browsing for tickets for your next evening out. Upcoming shows include:

Dirty Deeds – The AC/DC Experience, Macy Gray, William Shatner and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Paddington Gets In a Jam, Engelbert Humperdinck, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Sara Evans, America, The Robert Cray Band, KC and the Sunshine Band, Patti Lupone, and Jay Leno.

Val sums it all up: “We’re making bergenPAC a destination. You don’t have to cross the river to get a cultural experience. Come see our legends on stage!”

"The theater was built in 1926 as a vaudeville house, and we were intentional on meticulously restoring the craftsmanship of this majestic space to its past grandeur."

  • Executive Director, Alexander Diaz