Alex Boye. The National Parks. Neither are on tour, but both are coming to BYU-Idaho during May to play special shows on Center Stage because of student requests.
“We take into high consideration the requests that students make in those surveys for who to book the next semester,” said Don Sparhawk, the Center Stage manager.
Those requests can play a big role in getting in demand acts to travel to Rexburg.
“The National Parks weren’t on tour, but we asked them to come and they agreed to come play a single, special show,” Sparhawk said. “Many students suggested and requested for them to come.”
Sparhawk said occasionally acts will request to play at the school, but the majority of the time Center Stage reaches out to them.
“Mat Kearney was one that we hadn’t heard much about, but we found that he fit the audience we have at BYU-Idaho,” Sparhawk said. “We reached out to his booking agent and got a show set up at the school for him.”
Sparhawk said Center Stage’s primary purpose is to entertain, but also to educate and uplift, which means that many non-member acts are invited to play.
When a performer comes to BYU-I and demands coffee, what is the right thing to do?
“We try to respect each other’s cultures,” Sparhawk said. “We don’t expect them to come here and live exactly as we do.”
When performers make requests that fall outside BYU-I rules, he and Center Stage Student Manager, Austin Ritchie, a junior studying communication, do their best to accommodate without negating the values of the Church.
“We had Bill Cosby once a few years ago and he really wanted coffee,” Sparhawk said. “We weren’t going to make it for him, but we did drive all the way to Idaho Falls to pick it up for him.”
Sparhawk said there are lines that cannot be crossed though.
“We don’t allow smoking or alcohol, obviously, and we ask them to dress modestly,” Sparhawk said.
Center Stage has a variety of performers every semester, each in turn having a variety of requests for the school when they perform. Ritchie said the staff at Center Stage are tasked with meeting those requests as efficiently as possible.
“I handle the catering, along with the Center Stage student council, for every artist that comes,” Ritchie said. “It’s anywhere from a one to three day process at times.”
Ritchie said every set up is different.
“Normally, we cater a dinner for the performers and the tech,” Ritchie said. “With a recent show, we catered two dinners because the performers didn’t want to eat before the show, but we still had to feed the tech.”
Ritchie said he hopes BYU-I students understand the high value of each show at Center Stage.
“The value of a ticket at Center Stage is extremely good,” Ritchie said. “A show at the school is always far cheaper than a show at a normal venue.”
The staff at Center Stage hope that students will recognize that value and come out to shows this semester, said both Ritchie and Sparhawk.
“I know I regret not attending shows on campus when I was a student,” Sparhawk said.