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Presenting the new Topfer Theatre / By Molly McManus

You know you’ve seen it. But do you know what you’re looking at as you drive down South Lamar Boulevard? It’s huge, it’s blue and it just so happens to be the newest addition to ZACH Theatre’s humble empire.

Currently in its 79th season, ZACH Theatre is one of Austin’s most lively and inventive performing arts organizations, using imagination, dreams and theatrical incredibleness to create an intimate experience that brings people together, enlivening the souls of those in attendance.

Founded in 1932, ZACH is the longest-running theater company in Texas, serving 85,000 adults and youth each year. ZACH creates its own nationally recognized dramatic, musical and comedic productions under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley and Managing Director Elisbeth Challener. This month, ZACH Theatre continues its growth and engagement with Austin, adding a third theater, the Topfer Theatre, to its performance campus just off the banks of Lady Bird Lake.

The state-of-the-art, 420-seat, 32,000-square-foot Topfer Theatre almost doubles ZACH’s capacity while still preserving what it is known for, its intimate theatrical experience. With more seats and space, audiences will also be able to enjoy a 72-foot fly tower for scenery, a large orchestra pit and comfortable seats with an abundance of legroom, better parking and valet options, and a beautiful lobby with ceilings that seem to skim the clouds with stunning views of the lake, the Capitol and the downtown skyline. There will be full-service bars and expanded concessions on both levels of the theater, and a serene outdoor plaza to savor drinks with friends, discussing the anticipation of a show or sharing critiques after a performance.

The Topfer Theatre campaign has raised more than $20 million of its $22 million goal, with help from the City of Austin and the Texas Commission on the Arts, as well as many other organizations, making this beautiful new theater an opportunity for Austinites to enjoy for generations to come. For more information on events, how you can donate and get involved, visit zachtheatre.org. A free community event to christen ZACH’s Topfer Theatre will be held Nov. 3. More details will be announced soon, so visit zachtheatre.org to stay tuned.

The uplifting Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime will be the first 2012-2013 season production on the Topfer stage. Previews begin Oct. 17. With more than 40 actors and supported by a full orchestra for the first time in ZACH’s history, Ragtime showcases the power of the new performance space, as well as the profound and enthused talent of ZACH’s company of actors and theater artists.

Deep in the Heart of ZACH Opening Gala

Sept. 29
The Topfer Theatre and entire ZACH campus will be celebrating during the Deep in the Heart of ZACH opening gala. The event features Brian Stokes Mitchell, Broadway star of Ragtime and Tony Award winner for Kiss Me, Kate. ZACH’s talent will perform inside while Austin bands play on the outdoor plaza. Guests can attend Mitchell’s first or second concert in the Topfer then partake in the festivities, concluding with an exclusive post-concert reception. All attendees will enjoy food from Austin’s finest vendors, along with drinks, bands and ZACH performances. For tickets and information, call Eric Scott at 512.476.0594, extension 260, or email escott@zachtheatre.org.

Bernadette Peters Headlines Once Upon a Dream at ZACH’s Topfer Theatre

Sept. 27
Bernadette Peters, the fiery, beautiful and talented actress and singer, will headline the first opening gala at ZACH’s Topfer Theatre, Once Upon a Dream, with a 30-piece orchestra of Austin musicians backing her. Peters, winner of two Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards and a Golden Globe Award, is known for her iconic stage roles in Gypsy, Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun, among many others. She is also known most recently for her presence on the television series Smash.

“It is truly perfect that one of the most iconic Broadway performers in American history will open our spectacular new Topfer Theatre,” says Elisbeth Challener, ZACH’s managing director. “Bernadette Peters has dazzled audiences and critics alike.” “It could not be more ideal than to have Austin’s newest theatrical jewel christened by the incomparable, versatile, electrifying, dynamic performer Bernadette Peters,” says Gala Chair Bobbi Topfer.

Once Upon a Dream will be a memorable black-tie gala, with a cocktail reception in the theater followed by a seated dinner on the plaza under ZACH’s beautiful custom tent. Peters will then perform a concert of songs from many of her award-winning performances.

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