L.A.’s Nimoy Theater: Where Art Can Live Long And Prosper

UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance held its opening night for the newly-renovated Nimoy Theater, formerly known as Crest Theater, in Westwood, California, and featured Grammy Award-winning poet J. Ivy on Sept. 23. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images)

This summer proved that Los Angeles truly is the entertainment capital of the world with an abundance of concerts in stadiums, arenas and clubs smashing attendance and grossing records while boosting the economy. There is no shortage of venues for established superstars to connect with their audiences, yet L.A. is in dire need of an intimate space where art can incubate and develop to live long and prosper.

UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, also known as CAP UCLA, answered the call by opening the doors to its 299-capacity, 10,500-square-foot Nimoy Theater, named after the late actor and artist Leonard Nimoy, famously known as Spock in “Star Trek,” on Sept. 23 following an arduous five-year journey that included COVID-related delays and supply chain issues. UCLA purchased the Crest Theater and invested $24 million in renovations to develop a new venue dedicated to the beloved actor.

The opening night featured Grammy Award-winning poet J. Ivy, who brought his band from Chicago as well as talented singer and his wife Tarrey Torae. The ensemble took full advantage of the intimacy of the building, creating soft beats that allowed J. Ivy to recite stories and connect with the audience before the sound crescendoed with Torae’s stunning vocals.

The show was the first of CAP UCLA’s Poetry Uncut series curated by J. Ivy, the university’s resident poet.

“It’s going to be a celebration of the arts, poetry and new beginnings with this beautiful new space that will bring a lot of art and culture to the Los Angeles area,” J. Ivy tells Pollstar prior to the show. “I love big crowds, but when you have an opportunity to get in the space like the Nimoy, it becomes more of a conversation. You’re really talking to the people, and I can feel that energy, and we can have that exchange, that dance. It’s a beautiful warm embrace.”

CAP UCLA’s Artistic Director Edgar Miramontes, who took over the position this past summer, says he was over the moon after J. Ivy’s showing, especially in a climate during which theaters are struggling to keep audiences engaged through programming.

“This is the moment to try just about everything to be able to connect, exchange and share with one another what is not only the power of art and culture but just being together and being in the same room, experiencing something we haven’t seen before,” says Miramontes, who hopes a venue like the Nimoy with programming highlighting various performing arts will spark a curiosity in people.

“I do feel that I’m finding a lack of curiosity out there to experience newness,” he adds. “I’m not sure if there’s a lack of interest, but there’s this idea that we are all creative beings that we took for granted and moved into an isolation period.”

Miramontes believes the Nimoy can be the small space L.A. and the city of Westwood need to get their communities out of self-isolation and into a rebirth. “That is the thing about being in this place of what I call ‘change-making’ because we may not solve every social issue, but we can certainly be a platform to discuss and, through art and culture, move through the most critical issues of our time. I think people may be talking about the pandemic we lived through 20 years from now and how the Nimoy was a renaissance, for instance, a hope, and that’s my hope and own challenge too.”