QPAC director helps theater thrive during COVID-19, renovations

Queensborough Center for the Performing Arts Director Susan Agin (Photo source courtesy of Susan Agin)

While the Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC) has been limited in its performances over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and renovations being done in the building, the center’s director, Susan Agin, has managed to continue holding events and drawing audiences by thinking outside the box.

In the early stages of the pandemic, Agin set up virtual performances for audiences to enjoy from their own home. When restrictions were eased, Agin set up outdoor events, which still continue as renovations continue to be done at QPAC. Agin was rewarded with her hard work when QPAC received the Best of the Boro Award for best theater arts center in Queens.

According to Agin, she’s very happy to be able to continue entertaining a large number of people and honored for QPAC to be named the best theater arts center in Queens.

“This is quite an honor to achieve this award,” Agin said. “It is recognition that, despite the challenges of COVID, QPAC has remained visible and able to serve the community and that makes me enormously proud.”

Agin has shown a quick ability to adapt. Almost immediately after everything shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she organized virtual shows on Facebook and YouTube for everyone stuck at home. This became the norm for events until restrictions were eased when the performances were then taken outside to the streets.

QPAC’s ability to produce star-studded live programming for audiences via Queens Public Television was a deciding factor for its Best of the Boro Award. This allowed people who were uncomfortable attending performances due to COVID-19 fears or vulnerable populations like seniors to still be able to enjoy the shows from the safety of their own homes.

Attendees watch QPAC’s drive-in concert of Rock of Ages last July. (Photo courtesy of QPAC/QCC)

Additionally, Agin has overseen the shows being taken on the road since the building has been undergoing renovations. Many shows have been performed outdoors as a result of this and as a means of diminishing COVID-19 concerns among attendees and performers. According to Agin, there were five drive-in open-air concerts performed last summer in Bayside.

“It’s thrilling that we were able to make that happen,” Agin said.

Renovations on QPAC are expected to be completed by mid-September. (Photo courtesy of Susan Agin)

With renovations on the theater expected to be completed by mid-September, Agin is looking forward to utilizing the new features to create better experiences for attendees.

“We’ll be able to take it to the next level with accessible options, new aesthetics, improvement to the lighting and sound systems and new concessions,” Agin said. “It’s going to make our jobs easier and the experience that much better.”

According to Agin, her love of the performative arts stems from her early exposure to it at a young age. She had musicians in her family and became interested in music and dance.

“I saw the role arts played in people’s lives and that’s what hooked me further,” Agin said.

She also feels QPAC’s diverse and inclusive performers and programs do a good job of representing the diverse population that makes up Queens. Now she feels regular attendees have built up a familiarity with the venue and staff.

“We’ve found our customers have adopted us as their second home,” Agin said.

When the newly renovated theatre opens up in September, Agin already has a good idea of what the first performance there will be.

“We’re considering a lovely tribute to Ukraine to open up the season,” Agin said.