Always On Cue
Celebrating Wharton Center’s 40th anniversary season with a peek behind the curtain.
January 31, 2023
A darkened room, a hushed crowd, a world of wonder and escape before your eyes. There’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in a live performance. Wharton Center for Performing Arts has been presenting MSU and mid-Michigan with world-class Broadway, theater and music productions for 40 years.
Named for Dr. Clifton R. Wharton Jr., who served as president of MSU from 1970-1978, and his wife, Dolores, the facility’s creation took flight thanks to the Whartons’ passion for the arts and an enthusiastically supported fundraising campaign.
Cobb Great Hall is Wharton Center’s largest venue with 2,254 seats. Renowned for its acoustics and large stage, the hall has undergone structural upgrades over the years to accommodate various productions. This photo shows the Great Hall packed for a performance by the MSU Band.
Behind the scenes, walls are adorned with art and signatures created by past touring companies.
Handwritten records of past shows, performers and crews. These cards chronicle shows that predate Wharton Center.
Executive Director Eric Olmscheid joined Wharton Center in June 2022, bringing nearly 20 years of experience with nationally recognized performing arts organizations.
Spartan green seats in Cobb Great Hall.
Today, Executive Director Eric Olmscheid keeps that passion alive and looks forward to continuing to connect with audiences. “There’s a commonality of the human spirit that is engaged through the arts,” he said. “That allows our audiences to connect with each other and themselves.”
Changing rooms and lighted makeup mirrors let performers prepare for the stage en masse.
Wharton Center’s rehearsal facilities allow actors and dancers to perfect their performances.
Wharton Center has welcomed many Broadway hits to East Lansing, including the ever-popular "Wicked."
The Pasant Theatre, another performance venue in Wharton Center, seats 585 and is designed with a thrust stage, which extends into the audience on three sides to create more intimate interaction between the performers and the viewers.
While there’s always the option to purchase tickets online, theatregoers can also buy seats and get expert advice in-person at the ticket office.
In addition to hosting some of the world’s elite touring companies and performers from Broadway and beyond, Wharton Center works to make the performing arts accessible to all. Programs and initiatives include Arts Within Reach, which provides arts experiences to underserved populations, the annual Young Playwrights Festival and sensory-friendly shows. “Wharton Center is magic,” said Public Relations Manager Bob Hoffman. “And we want to bring that magic to everyone.”
Cobb Great Hall’s rigging system. A dizzying array of ropes and pulleys allow operators to control curtains and scenery quickly and quietly. Stagehands communicate cues using lights that can only be seen backstage.
Looking up at the extensive and elaborate rigging operation in Cobb Great Hall.
Each pulley has its own customized counterweight system, allowing operators to move the lines with ease.
Posters of past performances.
Tim Cerullo, '08
Wharton Center for Performing Arts