National acts attract broader audience for FMU Performing Arts Center
The Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center (PAC) has been open since 2011, bringing a rotation of musical acts and performances to downtown Florence.
But this year, the PAC took a significant step forward.
National touring acts such as The Indigo Girls, Travis Tritt and Clint Black have all made stops this year at the PAC, and with it, they brought new twists on their traditional performances for the intimate concert hall. The Indigo Girls played with the Florence Symphony Orchestra, while Tritt went unplugged for his Florence date.
Daryl Bridges, vice president for development at FMU, said officials mapped out a strategy to evolve programming at the PAC this year.
“We decided we wanted to bring in accomplished performers,” Bridges said. “We also wanted to broaden the audiences in a geographic sense.”
With the season not wrapping up until November, there are still three shows remaining on this year’s calendar. Lyle Lovett and his Large Band are scheduled to take the stage on Aug. 30, Amy Grant on Sept. 26 and Mary Chapin Carpenter on Nov. 13.
PAC officials are also anticipating bringing in the following Broadway shows: “Sister Act,” “Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Memphis.”
Bridges said upping the star wattage at the PAC has helped increase the venue’s awareness, both with ticket buyers and performers.
“Indigo Girls had a great, great house when they partnered with the Florence Symphony Orchestra,” Bridges said. “We anticipate that Lyle Lovett will sell very strongly, and we anticipate that will be a packed house. Travis Tritt was a packed house. Those are some that jump out to me that had wonderful audiences.”
The venue has also been praised by several performers for its interior and exterior design, as well as for the acoustics.
“We received great feedback from the performers,” Bridges said. “They loved the design, and they absolutely enjoyed the performance space and the intimacy.”
In addition to being a venue for accomplished performers, the PAC is working toward becoming a statewide destination. According to Bridges, patronage has broadened this year.
“For some of the recent shows, up to 30 percent are selling outside of Florence,” Bridges said. “So we know that the PAC is gaining a reputation as a destination. People outside of Florence are beginning to see what we’re doing here, and they’re taking advantage of that.”
Not only is the PAC exapnding its offerings inside the building, but on the outside as well.
The upcoming schedule for the BB&T Amphitheatre, located on the Palmetto Street side of the venue, is still in the works, but Bridges said the community can expect to see some university groups performing there. Some short-notice shows might be scheduled in the fall.
“We’re working on some great things outside for the spring,” Bridges said. “Now that we have the covering on the amphitheater, we’ll be using that much more.”
The amphitheater will also be a venue for the Pecan Festival in November.
With places such as the Florence Civic Center and the Florence Little Theatre also serving as entertainment venues, Bridges said he does not view them as competition but rather as partners in the growing Florence arts community.
“We’re trying to attract to those performers that resonate with the audience and enjoy high-quality entertainment,” Bridges said. “They can get high-quality entertainment right here in Florence. This year we decided to step up with concert-type entertainment.”
Moving forward, Bridges said there are plans to have more local and regional acts perform at the PAC. He said the center’s vision is to become the focal point of the entertainment scene in Florence.
“We’re just excited to be able to provide the type of entertainment and venue the audiences want and the artists deserve,” Bridges said. “This is becoming a statewide venue.”