Five Questions With Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of PAC NYC

09/14/2023 in
Five Questions With Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of PAC NYC

This week’s opening of PAC NYC promises a highly anticipated season of programming that’s brimming with concert series, one-man shows, choreography led by Tony-winning directors and compelling conversations between cultural thought leaders. 

Additionally, the performance space is purported to serve as a community hub for the neighborhood. Its second floor is designated for any passersby to use the space for work purposes or just to flat-out relax after a long Manhattan stroll — no membership or ticket purchases required whatsoever. The Downtown Alliance recently had a conversation with artistic director Bill Rauch, who elaborated on their mission to simply have “people come in and experience the overall welcome feeling in the building.” 

Could you talk a bit about the community days and how you all envision its coupling with Lower Manhattan?

Jenna Chrisphonte, who is our director of civic alliances, was the second person that I hired. That, I think, just says something about the importance that we place on what we call “civic alliances,” which are our relationships with community organizations. And of course that begins with our immediate neighborhood. It begins with the entire 9/11 community in terms of our site at the World Trade Center and our immediate neighborhood of Tribeca, Battery Park and the Financial District. 

And it expands beyond that — it really spreads throughout all five boroughs — but of course we know that the most important community is in our own backyard.

So the idea is to let the neighborhood know that PAC isn’t only about coming to see a reimagining of “Cats” but to function as a venue where people can come through on a daily basis and experience it beyond just from an entertainment aspect.  

Absolutely. Our second floor, which we call our public level, the lobby level, will be open to the public from early morning until late at night. We always say, “You don’t need a dollar, you don’t need a friend. Everybody’s welcome.” We sometimes refer to it as a living room for the World Trade Center and for downtown — and we’re really excited for people to come in, to meet a friend, to read a book, to check email, to have a glass of wine, to have a cup of tea. You know, it’s really an open, public space and that’s very important to us. 

Yeah, so the space should appeal to the professional who is desperate for a space to crack open their laptop as much as, say, a family from Iowa that needs to rest their doggies for a minute.

There’s such an extraordinary number of tourists in Lower Manhattan, who of course are going to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum which is right across the way from us, but you know, there are many reasons that tourists come and stay in Lower Manhattan. So, in addition to tourists, absolutely, the full range of people who work in the neighborhood, who live in the neighborhood, and who visit New York City — all of them. 

If you tried to explain to a New Yorker who was unaware of the PAC’s existence, would Lincoln Center be a fair comparison? Is that a fair way of thinking of it? Say, if you could imagine a Lincoln Center below Chambers Street.

Yes, in one sense as a shorthand, because we will have multiple, performing-arts disciplines: music, dance, chamber opera, theater, musical theater, and even film with the Tribeca Festival being in the building a couple weeks each year. But I think that there are so many differences between PAC and Lincoln Center. Our space is more intimate. It’s more concentrated. Lincoln Center has multiple resident companies that are each doing their thing, while we have our own organization — PAC NYC — that will be doing the programming. And, as we have been discussing, the PAC has a strong emphasis on community. For the entire inaugural season’s programming, the goal was to invite as many different kinds of people, as many different audiences into our building as possible. That’s really the heart of the matter for us. 

This may be a trite way to put it, but it seems the PAC’s mission is sort of marrying the existing institutions down here with something that feels like a renewal.  

No! Not trite at all. I think that’s powerful. Look, we exist out of the tragedy of September 11, and we are the final public component of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. We’re here to affirm community, to celebrate life, to bring people together, to contribute to civic healing. So, yeah, it’s very much rooted in respect for the past, but very much about looking ahead — looking forward in terms of downtown. 

photo: Matthew Murphy

Tags: bill rauch, pac nyc

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