Broadway legend Carol Channing and movie star Jeremy Renner are headlining free festivities Saturday celebrating the opening of Modesto Junior College's expanded auditorium complex.
The school is inviting everyone to tour the two-story facility, watch performances, check out new radio and TV studios and view a costume display. Children can enjoy storytelling and face-painting.
"The facility belongs to the public," said Michael Sundquist, dean of the college's Arts, Humanities and Communications Division. "It's their chance to see the wonderful improvements done over the last three years. Hopefully, people will bring out their family. It's a wonderful way for families to introduce kids to the performing arts for free and to look around and see what the possibilities are in entertainment, TV and radio areas."
Now known as the Performing and Media Arts Center, the auditorium complex underwent a $33 million expansion and renovation. The majority of the funding comes from Measure E, a $326 million Yosemite Community College District bond measure, and the rest from the state Chancellor's Office.
The 54,000-square-foot facility features an overhauled 820-seat main auditorium and a 74-seat little theater. It also has double the lobby space, double the restrooms (10 stalls in the women's bathroom), a new concession area and a ticket office.
Channing, a Modesto resident and the star of the Broadway musical "Hello, Dolly!" will talk about her campaign with the statewide Parent-Teacher Association to promote arts in the public schools. She also will sing a new song about the importance of arts in the schools.
Renner, an MJC alum who has appeared in such movies as "28 Weeks Later" and "North Country," will talk about his show business career.
"I think he's going to inspire younger performers who think there might be a place for them in the business but also to talk about the reality of what it takes to get a job in the entertainment industry," Sundquist said.
Jim Johnson, professor emeritus and former dean of the Arts, Humanities and Communications Division, said it's great that the celebration coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the auditorium.
"The people are going to be just blown away by the beauty of this facility," he said.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2313.