A Q&A with Performing Arts Center Executive Director Khady Kamara
After decades of anticipation, the Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center is slated to open on September 15. Khady Kamara, the organization’s executive director, has more than 24 years of theater management experience, and comes to Lower Manhattan from the acclaimed Second Stage Theater company. She won a Tony Award in 2022 for the Broadway revival of Take Me Out. She recently shared these insights with the Broadsheet.
Broadsheet: The PAC is set to open in a few days. What work remains to be done?
Kamara: We are in a very exciting final stretch to get the building ready to welcome the public. Our three flexible theaters are being commissioned, which is an intricate process of testing different audience and stage configurations. The level of skill and specificity that goes into those processes is astounding. Meanwhile, the restaurant is being completed, and final building finishes are underway. And on the programming side, our team is hard at work with our opening-season artists. I am most excited about opening our doors and seeing all this hard work come to life.
Broadsheet: How is the PAC’s location at the World Trade Center resonant with the organization’s mission?
Kamara: The PAC NYC was a promise to Lower Manhattan and many people—our neighboring residents and businesses, civic leaders, the city’s creative community, and a group of very generous donors—have come together to create it. It grew out of a belief in the power of the arts, both to help complete this site, and to bring new life and energy to the neighborhood as a whole.
Broadsheet: The PAC will be stitched into an existing arts scene in Lower Manhattan. What opportunities for collaboration do you envision with incumbent groups?
Kamara: We are joining a rich ecology of arts and cultural offering in Lower Manhattan, and want to be a great partner with our neighbors. Our artistic director Bill Rauch and his team have spent a lot of time getting to know our colleagues, and we look forward to working with them, welcoming them, and cheering on their wonderful programming. Our job is to build community at PAC NYC where people know they can come here to be together, have fun, exchange ideas and enjoy world class entertainment.
Broadsheet: How do you see PAC’s relationship to the city as a whole, and to the Lower Manhattan community in particular?
Kamara: We hope to be an exciting, welcoming new gathering place for residents, workers and visitors in Lower Manhattan. In addition to the work on our stages, we’ll have lobby performances and a great new restaurant in our beautiful building to bring people joy, stimulation, and contemplation. And given our location at the nexus of many subway lines and the PATH, we hope to attract New Yorkers from all five boroughs and New Jersey on a regular basis. Inherently, the programming we offer here is done in the spirit of community and collaboration. We are bringing together artists across disciplines, generations & backgrounds. And we are offering their work in spaces that are uniquely flexible and intimate. We hope artists will be galvanized to do imaginative, generous work and that our audiences will find us to be an especially engaging place to see it.
Broadsheet: How will you champion inclusivity in your work at the Perelman?
Kamara: I’ve always been committed to the extraordinary impact that art can have in every community and that will be a touchstone for the Perelman. Our building is designed to welcome the full range of work in the performing arts. We have a lobby stage that can host free performances for visitors, and Bill Rauch is programming it all with creative inclusivity top of mind across artists, genres, and audiences.
Broadsheet: The PAC has gone through three major leadership turnovers in the last four years. Will its opening usher in a period of greater stability?
Kamara: This project is so complex, starting with the stewardship responsibilities of our location at Ground Zero, and including the engineering challenges of the transportation hub beneath us. We are so grateful to those who put in years of time and experience to get us to this moment.
Broadsheet: How are you defining success?
Kamara: We want artists and audiences alike to feel PAC NYC is a home for them. We want the Perelman to be a source of inspiration and community for Lower Manhattan—and around the world. We will feel successful when the building is buzzing with activity and art, and PAC NYC is seen as a leader and resource for cultural organizations.
Broadsheet: Tell us about your background.
Kamara: I have been fortunate to work in the performing arts for most of my career, in many roles, which taught me the inner workings and all facets of an arts organization. My time at Second Stage exposed me to the very specific world of Broadway production and the ecosystem of New York City based non-profit theater. I feel grateful to have that time and all the relationships I built in New York, in order to now run this incredible organization.
Broadsheet: Finally, where do you see PAC a decade from now?
Kamara: In a decade, I hope to see a tenth season celebration that builds on the spirit of our first—offering something for everyone, with extraordinary artists from around the world performing. In ten years, seeing a show at PAC NYC should be an essential “To Do” for all New Yorkers and visitors, as well. I’d also like to see the restaurant buzzing all day long while people enjoy the free performances on the lobby stage.
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