Like 1000’s of performing arts centers throughout the US the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts had to cease hosting all events nearly two years ago. Director of the Bicknell Joe Firman says remembers in March of 2020 when the Broadway production of An American in Paris performed at the center and within days Pittsburg State, where the center is located announced that it was shutting down to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s one of those, I am trying to remember. It feels like a lifetime ago. So we had our final show, which was An American in Paris and it was in March right before the pandemic shut down the university. So we barely made it through that show before we took our first lockdown.”
At the time, Joe was uncertain when another broadway performance would return to Southeast Kansas, due to the fact that it takes over a year to plan a major show like South Pacific that is performing at the Bicknell Center this Sunday. Joe says that the staff of the Bicknell, which normally is comprised of just a handful of employees swells to about 100 from as far away as Northwest Arkansas.
“So it is a huge team effort that’s almost hard to describe. And then the physical part of the building is equally amazing. Everything we have in the air over the stage, all of our curtains, all of our lights, they have to come down and days before Broadway.”
What makes the Bicknell Center unique is that it is both a performing arts center that seats over 1,500 and a classroom for students who both want to work in-front of and behind the camera. Even after over seven years of running the center Joe is still waiting to meet every single Four State resident for a tour of the facility.
“The way that works really well is when people who live in Southeast Kansas come and attend events. We built the place for everyone here to come in and experience this. And sometimes I talk about how there is this sense, that it’s on the university campus, it must be for the university students. Well, Pitt state has a wonderful focus on the community and on region, everything we do on campus is also designed so that it is accessible and available to the greater public.”
Joe had the greater public and KRPS listeners in mind when he booked Kansas Public Radio’s Retro Cocktail Hour’s 25 Anniversary taking place on Sunday May 1 at 7 pm.
“We’re also going to be having a really big day on the 1st of May. And a little bit of a connection back to KRPS as well. For all of the dedicated listeners to the Retro Cocktail Hour. I am absolutely thrilled that on their 25th anniversary, they’re throwing a big party.”
Joe and the staff at the Bicknell are looking forward to the end of the spring semester at Pittsburg State by throwing a 1950’s themed party with Hawaiian themed music from the Watiki 7, straight from Honolulu, Hawaii. Joe is also hoping that whether it’s broadway events like South Pacific or an event of a different variety like the Retro Cocktail Hour that you make it to at least one event at the Bicknell this year.