Bryan Jao, Vice President of Programming and Chief Program Officer at Midland Center for the Arts joined the organization earlier this year from the Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University. We caught up with Bryan on the exciting things coming to the Center for 2018, his favorite performances and development in the region, here's what he had to say:
Q: After joining Midland Center for the Arts in 2017, can you share with us what's new for programming in 2018?
A: Joining the Midland Center for the Arts in March of 2017 made for an exciting, but hectic time. We needed to finalize planning for the 2017-2018 season with the variety of touring artists and companies that would be new for the season, most notably our Broadway and Beyond series, which includes Elf the Musical, Chicago, Cirque Eloize: Saloon
, Cinderella and Jersey Boys.
In addition, we have included performances such as the Moscow Festival Ballet’s performance of Sleeping Beauty
and Brain Candy Live! featuring Adam Savage from Mythbusters and Michael Stevens, (better known as Vsauce), that has also generated excitement as word continues to spread.
Bringing programming that has broad appeal and will draw audiences from across the region is necessary to achieve our goal of becoming a regional destination for arts and entertainment. This complements the variety of programs that we already offer.
Q: The Whiting Forest / Dow Gardens connectivity project, what does it mean for the Center and interaction among guests of the center?
A: This is certainly a great time to be at the heart of it all. With the exciting new developments across our campus with Whiting Forest, together we are on the path to becoming a regional destination.
Q: What is one thing that surprised you about Midland?
A: How flat the terrain is! I’ve lived in Michigan since 2002 and the Lansing area was certainly pretty flat. As an avid road cyclist, I didn’t think it could get much flatter than lower Michigan, but it certainly is in the mid-Michigan region. It makes the rides a little easier (and the average speed a little higher), so I will have to work to find the nooks where there are some steeper inclines!
Q: What was your favorite performance or program of 2017?
A: In talking about the 2016-2017 season, that is a tough one! I would have loved to see The Piano Guys
, but that was prior to my arrival. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
was a sellout of four performances which started much of the energy around the Midland Center for the Arts as a regional destination when the mix of programming is right.
As my experience has taught me how touring Broadway can be both a catalyst (no pun intended) and driver for economic growth, and help to put an organization on “the map” both regionally and industry-wide, it is exciting to introduce performances and productions that some may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise unless you drive to Grand Rapids, Lansing or Detroit. It will drive patrons from across the region to Midland as well as provide an opportunity for Midland residents to see performances in our own backyard.
You can learn more about current and upcoming attractions at Midland Center for the Arts on their website at www.mcfta.org