Performing Arts Center now holding classes

Aaron Gotter, Head Photographer

The Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center (PAC) in downtown Florence nears completion as it is prepared for the gala opening weekend Friday, Sept. 9 through Monday, Sept. 12.

The gala will kick off on Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. with “A Formal Evening with Roberta Flack.” The event will be black-tie optional and feature a reception before and after the concert.

“Everyone who buys a ticket on Sept. 9 will receive a commemorative poster,” PAC Director Laura Sims said.

On Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m., the PAC will have “An Evening With Judy Collins.” This performance will have two acts and an intermission. Dress for this event is casual.

Earlier that same Saturday, the FMU Theatre Program will present a Shakespeare Showcase in the PAC Black Box Theatre.

There will be two showings of this performance at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. This event is free, but seating is limited. Sims suggested that attendees show up early to make sure they get a seat.

Two free dance recitals will also be held on Saturday in the BB&T Amphitheatre, which is located just outside the main building.

There will be two different recitals taking place at two different times. The first recital is at 11 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2 p.m., the PAC will feature “An Inspirational Afternoon with the Charleston Sym-phony Orchestra Spiritual Ensemble.” Tickets for this event cost $5.

“Anyone who doesn’t think that they can afford the main events on Friday or Sunday should try to attend the free events or the Sunday afternoon event,” Sims said.

On Monday, Sept. 12, the Florence Symphony Orchestra will perform the first concert of this season. This is the first season that the Florence Symphony Orchestra is officially a resident of the PAC.

After the gala weekend, the PAC will start with space rentals and presenting shows. The schedules for these events should be on the PAC website sometime in August.

This is the first semester that students will be able to attend classes in the PAC.

“Some of the music industry degree students will have classes here downtown,” Sims said. “We have a technology lab upstairs in the academic wing.”

The workstations in these labs have full-sized keyboards and computers so that students can use different editing and composing software for their degree.

There will be a medium practice room for small rehearsals and Music Theory classes in addition to two small practice rooms for students.

Some workstations will be available on campus, but most of the workstations will be moved to the PAC.

“I think it is going to be wonderful, and there is going to be a lot of activity,” Sims said.

The Pecan Festival’s footprint will be expanded this year to include the BB&T Amphitheatre as one of its stages.

“I think that people in Florence will get used to a lot of activity downtown,” Sims said.

Sims has been the director of the PAC since before construction began on the PAC. She moved to South Carolina nearly four years ago.

“It feels like it took so long, but it didn’t really,” Sims said. “When you are talking about a building this large, it is not just classrooms; you are dealing with performance spaces that have acoustics that have to be fine tuned.”

More information about the PAC is available on their website,