Artistic Director Offers New Glimpse of WTC Performance Center

Lucy Sexton, associate artistic director of the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center, describes the types of programming to be offered at the center, still years away from being built. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jan. 13, 2015

The people planning the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center are aiming high.

The complex will feature “the best artists of our time” in “the most exciting and advanced theater in the country,” associate artistic director Lucy Sexton told a Community Board 1 committee last month. 

Detailing the latest vision for the center, planned to be built roughly where the temporary PATH station now stands, next to One World Trade Center, Sexton said the theaters would feature a wide array of offerings, including theater, dance, music, musical theater and “new” opera.

“These are lofty goals, they are ad­venturous goals,” said Sexton, who runs the New York Dance and Per­formance Awards or “Obies,” “but I think that if you’re going to build a new theater it’s what’s required.”

Sexton said there would be three theaters—150, 350 and 550 seats—that could be combined in different ways to accommodate audiences of up to 1,000.

Overseen by artistic director David Lan, the artistic director of London’s New Vic, many shows will be produced at the center in collaboration with artists around the world as well as other institutions in the city, Sexton said.

“We want to be a space that doesn’t see itself in opposition to other theaters in New York,” she noted. As an example, Sexton said she has spoken to Harlem’s Apollo Theater about such a collaboration, perhaps co-producing an event “that could happen Downtown and could also happen at the Apollo.”

As “the most digitally advanced space in the city, in the country and one of the most digitally advanced spaces in the world,” Sexton said, the center would position itself as a showcase for digital me­dia arts and international collaborations.

“You could have a performance happening in New York City and in Seoul and in Rio. It would be one performance happening all at once.”

Or, she said, the technology could give students, in their classrooms, front row seats at a dance rehearsal or a master class with a performing artist.

Open from 8 in the morning until 1 a.m., Sexton said the center would be “alive all day,” drawing tourists, Down­town residents and workers not only to shows but to breakfast or lunch or just a cup of coffee. “The public space is very important to us,” she said.

Maggie Boepple, the Performing Arts Center’s president, said that the center’s board is close to announcing the winning architect, and a design for the building.

As for Frank Gehry, the center’s former architect who had come up with a concept for a bigger, more elaborate structure, “it was an amicable parting but we couldn’t come to a contractual agreement,” she said. “I’m not going to go into why. We both tried.”

Boepple estimated that the center, long delayed for financial reasons as well as the overdue completion of the PATH station, would open in late 2018 or 2019.

In the meantime, she said, there would be collaborations between the center and other arts institutions to whet the public’s appetite for what is to come.