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ARTS AND CULTURE by ANDREA MARKOWITZ Spotlight on the Arts Live theater, culture and ' space' take center stage in Peoria A great city is defined by its rich past, its cultural diversity and quality of its amenities. Peoria hits on all counts starting with a revitalized Oldtown, the beating, breathing heart of the city. " It's the historic center of the city," said Steve Prokopek, Peoria's economic development direc-tor, and an area that epitomizes the charm of the city's past and promise of the future. The curtain rises Arts take center stage in Oldtown. At its heart is the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, a $ 13 million facility that is the cornerstone of Peoria's down-town revitalization efforts. New Times recenlty named it " Best New Playhouse." The state- of- the- art facility is home to Theater Works, Peoria's criti-cally acclaimed, award- winning community theater. Robyn Allen, Theater Works' artistic director, is thrilled to be attached to such an impressive center. " Audiences are just loving it," Allen said. " The auditorium is gorgeous and the seating is comfort-able. It has a very intimate feel." As the in- house theater company, Theater Works manages the center and stages year- round produc-tions. The 20,000 square- foot facility houses two theaters: the 280- seat Mary Jane Gyder Main Stage and the intimate McMillin Black Box Theater, which can be configured to seat between 30 and 80 patrons. Theater Works From lavish shows such as the recent Oklahoma! musical to the thought- provoking Crime and Punishment to family favorite Wizard of Oz, Theater Works is one of the premier community theater companies in the Valley. The company also provides a venue to showcase diverse artists and original works, off- Broadway plays, neglected classics, all of which promote artistic expression and education. This is especially key in getting children excited and involved in the theater arts. " We've reactivated the children's program, and kids and families are coming out in droves," said Joseph Benesh, Theater Works' former business development director. Dinner and a show If you'd like to combine your dinner and a show, there's the Arizona Broadway Theatre, located right next to the Peoria Sports Complex. This 400- seat dinner theater boasts a full schedule of Broadway productions paired with gourmet cuisine. Arizona Broadway Theatre, one of the Valley's only dinner theaters, is in its fourth season. The theatre's 2008- 2009 slate includes popular favorites such as Cabaret, A Christmas Carol, Guys & Dolls and Bye Bye Birdie. Out of this world Complete with a Mission Control room and three Space Stations, Peoria's Smithsonian Institute- affiliated Challenger Space Center offers LEFT: The Challenger Space Center. BELOW: The Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. www. visitpeoriaaz. com • PEORIA, ARIZONA 25