Located in the heart of Beverly Hills is the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The Wallis, as it is affectionately known, just opened its doors with a dedication ceremony and a series of star-studded galas that were worthy of its posh location.
This new venue transforms a Beverly Hills city block into the first performing arts center to be built there: a vibrant arts destination and a major cultural and education hub for audiences of every age. It has two distinct, elegant buildings: the renovated historic 1934 Italianate-style Beverly Hills Post Office and the contemporary Bram Goldsmith Theater.
The Wallis’ world class theater will begin its programs beginning November 8 with the Martha Graham Dance Company. For its inaugural season, The Wallis will produce and present theater, music and dance, special exhibitions, as well as programming for the family audience. Established artists set to participate include Mark Brokaw, Leonard Foglia, Ricky Ian Gordon, Frederica von Stade, Maurice Hines, Marsha Norman, Jason Robert Brown, Emma Rice, Harry Gregson-Williams, and England’s Kneehigh Theatre.
All the excitement is on the site of the historic Beverly Hills Post Office, which has become one of city’s most beloved buildings, and an anchor for the community. The building of the post office began with a letter and a dream. Beverly Hills’ honorary Mayor and iconic American entertainer Will Rogers wrote a letter in 1933 to the Secretary of the United States Treasury petitioning for a new post office for the city. Not afraid to take on the government Rogers insisted, “It seems you owe us $250,000.00 to build a post office and they can’t get the dough out of you.”
After postal operations were moved elsewhere in the ’90s, the Beverly Hills Cultural Center Foundation became dedicated to preserving the landmark, turning it into a dynamic cultural destination. Situated on a spacious landscaped campus dotted with impressive artwork, the two structures that make up The Wallis embrace the city’s history and future, creating a new artistic and visual landmark, and an entryway into Beverly Hills’ fabled shopping district. In addition to the Goldsmith Theater, the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater, a theater school for young people (opening in 2014), a café and gift shop are within the center.
The philanthropic lady for whom the center is named, Wallis Annenberg (daughter of diplomat/businessman/philanthropist Walter Annenberg) said, “Beverly Hills has always held a special place in my heart. It has long been my home and I was fortunate to have raised my children here. My father’s greatest legacy to me is a love for the arts and an appreciation for their impact and value in each of our lives. I am proud to be part of the artistic vision that the Center embodies.” #