Northwest NEWS

February 19, 2001

Entertainment

Spectacular program offers theatre, museums

by Deborah Stone
   Features Writer
   In its first year, The Spectacular Events Program is slowly gaining an audience for its day, evening and weekend activities.
   Offered as a cooperative venture between Bellevue and Cascadia community colleges, the program offers community members choices of three to four planned events per month. All events include admission tickets and transportation by deluxe coach, allowing participants to avoid the hassles of traffic and parking downtown by boarding at one of two Eastside locations (Canyon Park and Eastgate park and ride stations). Led by Program Director Don Christensen, the activities run the gamut from museum exhibits to winery tours to a variety of theatre, opera, dance and musical performances.
   "We just started the program last fall," explains Christensen and although it's been slow to start, we are now seeing more turnout. It's a very unique program and just one of two in the whole country. The other one is in Chicago. I fashioned ours after the one in Chicago, which has been successfully operating for the past 11 years."
   What makes the program unique, according to Christensen, is its educational enrichment component.
   Each event features a talk or lecture (usually given by Christensen) enroute to the destination, accompanied by a series of handouts for participants to peruse prior to their arrival at the particular venue. Backstage tours or meetings with the performers are often a part of the experience.
   The programs offer built-in companionship for those who attend on their own and the aspect of going with an escorted group emphasizes a safety aspect that is also very desirable for many women and older adults.
   "We have had all ages attend our events, but largely adults ranging from their 20s through their 70s have made up our groups," states Christensen.
   "For family-type performances like "The Nutcracker" we had children, parents and grandparents participate. It was nice to see the various generations together."
   Frequent participant Shelagh Moore of Woodinville is extremely satisfied with the program and has been spreading the word to everyone she knows.
   She says, "My husband died one year ago and we used to go to everything together. I spotted Spectacular Events in the Continuing Education catalog for BCC and decided to give them a try. I've gone to see the "Messiah" at the Seattle Symphony, "Rent" at the Paramount and to the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, and I'm all set to go to Portland for a weekend arts trip. Everything is well organized and the seats are great, plus I can avoid the nightmare of driving in all the congestion and in the bad weather.
   "For a single woman, it's a wonderful alternative. I also really like the background information that Don gives prior to each event. It really helps in understanding what I'm going to see and makes the experience fuller."
   Christensen hopes Spectacular Events can continue to grow as he sees it as a wonderful opportunity for relationships to develop between colleges and the communities they serve.
   He says, "This type of program serves so many purposes. It's good for the colleges and good for the community. I envision the program offering longer trips to various destinations across the U.S. and eventually overseas trips, too. There are endless possibilities."
   A listing of spring quarter events can be found in the upcoming continuing education catalogs of BCC and Cascadia community colleges, due out in early March, or on the BCC Website at www.conted.bcc.ctc.edu/events. On tap for next month is "Tosca" at Seattle Opera, "Midsummer Night's Dream" at Seattle Rep, "Five Tangos" with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company and an overnight excursion to the Columbia River Gorge.