Jay Leno to perform at Oct. 22 opening of Fine and Performing Arts Center

CULLOWHEE – Comedian Jay Leno, host of NBC’s long-running “The Tonight Show,” will christen Western Carolina University’s new Fine and Performing Arts Center in October at an opening night gala for the university’s $30 million, 122,000-square-foot showcase for the arts.

Jay Leno

Jay Leno

Leno, now in his 14th season as host of the Emmy Award-winning late-night talk show, will provide an evening of his trademark stand-up comedy Saturday, Oct. 22. Popular Asheville blues singer Kat Williams also will perform at the formal, black-tie affair, which will begin at 8 p.m.

Leno’s performance is part of a grand opening series of cultural events at the new center made possible in part by a $100,000 gift from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel.

“We are very excited that a performer of the caliber of Jay Leno will help us launch our beautiful new Fine and Performing Arts Center in grand fashion,” said Paul Lormand, director of the center’s performance facilities. “He is one of the best-known stars in Hollywood, and he is widely regarded as one of the nicest people in the entertainment business. His appearance at Western will provide a fun-filled evening of comedy and laughter, and folks won’t even have to stay up past midnight to enjoy the show.”

The Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western includes a 1,000-seat auditorium capable of hosting Broadway-quality productions, four separate art galleries comprising nearly 5,000 square feet to house Western’s permanent collection, and rotating displays of contemporary art and student work. The center is designed as a tribute to the Cherokee people, with signage in Cherokee and English, and a lobby featuring ceramic tiles in the form of a seven-point star representing the seven Cherokee tribal clans.

In addition to the opening night gala featuring Leno, a full schedule of performances is on tap for the 2005-06 inaugural season at the Fine and Performing Arts Center, including three additional events sponsored in part by Harrah’s.

“An Evening with Hitchcock and Herrmann,” a multi-media performance featuring film clips from director Alfred Hitchcock set to the music of composer Bernard Herrmann as performed live by the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, is set for 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27. The world-renowned Atlanta Ballet will perform selections from “The Nutcracker” and other works at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11. The United States Marine Band, America’s oldest professional music organization, will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18.

An eight-show subscription series will be under way in late October with a Big Band salute to the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and the Andrews Sisters, and continuing through March 31 with “The Piano Men,” a celebration of the songs of Elton John and Billy Joel. An inaugural series of exhibitions also is planned for the Fine Arts Museum, beginning in October with the premiere of selections from Western’s permanent collection.

For more information on the inaugural season at Western’s Fine and Performing Arts Center, contact Paul Lormand, director of the performance facilities for the Fine and Performing Arts Center, at (828) 227-2479.