Since she first began her journey with Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (whbpac.org) in 2008, Executive Director Julienne Penza-Boone has worked tirelessly to foster a thriving creative mecca for performing arts education.
Located along Main Street, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center brings world cinema, concerts, comedy shows, poetry slams and educational theater performances into the limelight for performers and audience members of all ages.
In honor of the WHBPAC’s 25th anniversary, we sat down with executive director Julienne Penza-Boone to discuss her favorite memories and proudest moments at the center.
WHBPAC executive director Julienne Penza-Boone.
WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK WITH WESTHAMPTON BEACH PERFORMING ARTS CENTER MEANINGFUL TO YOU?
What has been most meaningful to me have been all the relationships created as a result of my work with the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. I still keep in touch with the students I began working with back in 2009 when I came to the center as the education manager. To watch those young people blossom into successful adults, knowing that the theater’s education programs had a part in that development, is so rewarding.
WHAT ROLE DOES THE CENTER HAVE IN BRINGING THE HAMPTONS COMMUNITY TOGETHER?
We like to say that our iconic marquee is a cultural beacon of the Hamptons. Between our bus-in school day performances, which serve over 10,000 students each year, including all Hamptons school districts; Arts Academy programs; Finest in World Cinema program featuring ?rst-run ?lms; and main-stage acts that span every musical genre and the very best comedy, there is truly something for everyone. We aim for inclusivity and accessibility.
The center’s historic Main Street marquee
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES DURING YOUR TIME AT WESTHAMPTON BEACH PERFORMING ARTS CENTER?
Some of my favorite memories are deeply personal ones. For example, I met my daughter Ryleigh when she was 7 years old. She was so shy, and even though I had just started dating her father, I convinced him that she had to get involved in our Arts Academy programs. A wedding and 10 years later, we just watched her perform the lead in the Academy’s 42nd Street. Let’s just say I went through a lot of Kleenex!
WHAT ROLES DO THEATER, ART AND MUSIC PLAY IN CONNECTING YOUNG PEOPLE TO THEMSELVES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES?
It is no exaggeration to say that the arts are transformational for young people. Whether students are watching a performance on our stage or participating in one of our after-school programs, they are developing empathy, which is so needed in our current world. Our Butter?y Monologue Program, featuring about 15 young women of color who write monologues over the course of several weeks, has provided these students with the opportunity to speak to their families and community in a theatrical setting, and serve over 10,000 students each year, including all Hamptons school districts; Arts Academy programs; Finest in World Cinema program featuring ?rst-run ?lms; and main-stage acts that span every musical genre and the very best comedy, there is truly something for everyone. We aim for inclusivity and accessibility.
SINCE YOU FIRST BEGAN WORKING WITH THE CENTER, WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR PROUDEST MOMENTS?
I’d say my proudest moments have included all of the things we did during the pandemic. From drive-in concerts to outdoor concerts to streaming concerts, Zoom classes and masked performances featuring our students, we never stopped. I’m also very proud of the cultural equity work we’ve done over the past few years. We have a long way to go, but the WHB Performing Arts Center has made real strides thanks to genuine and meaningful cultural partnerships with organizations like Organización Latino Americana of Eastern Long Island, The Butter?y E?ect Project and our own Cultural Equity Council.
WHAT UPCOMING EVENTS AND PERFORMANCES ARE ON THE HORIZON AT WESTHAMPTON BEACH PERFORMING ART CENTER?
This summer, we will welcome The Beach Boys, Regina Spektor, Kristin Chenoweth, Kevin James and Ilana Glazer, just to name a few. Our Arts Academy will be presenting myriad theater camps, including the incomparable Camp Broadway, which features a midweek trip to New York to watch the Broadway play & Juliet. As far as special events, the Dr. Stanley Epstein Memorial Golf Tournament will be held on June 7 at Westhampton Country Club, and our spectacular Westhampton Beach Concours returns on Aug. 12 with a fabulous 25th anniversary cocktail party that same evening.
Photography by: PHOTO BY KELLI HULL PHOTOGRAPHY/COURTESY OF WESTHAMPTON BEACH PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, PHOTO BY KELLI HULL PHOTOGRAPHY/COURTESY OF WESTHAMPTON BEACH PERFORMING ARTS CENTER,