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The Taste of Forbes offered guests an opportunity to experience exhibitions as well as tasty food.

JMU’s Forbes Center for the Performing Arts hosted its “Taste of the Forbes” this past Friday. Labeled by the Forbes Center Executive Director Regan Byrne as an “arts and foodie event,” the evening presented everything from appetizers and drinks in the Grand Lobby to exhibitions of all the JMU arts program has to offer. While attending the event, I got to see first hand the abundance of entertainment that The Forbes Center is capable of.

Unveiled in 2010, the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts is the premier house of the JMU arts program. Named after JMU alumni Bruce and Lois Cardarella Forbes (64’), it encompasses both the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance and Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance.

“For people who are looking for a really great date night or introduction to the Forbes Center, this event is a great way to eat great food, meet other people interested in the arts and see a great array of presentations,” Byrne said.

Coined by the JMU School of Art Director, Dr. Katherine Schwartz, as “a very special evening of entertainment,” the event was split into a few different sections. Upon arrival, attendees enjoyed time for drinks, appetizers and mingling with other appreciators of the arts in the Forbes Center’s Grand Lobby. The food itself was exquisite. The Swedish meatballs and roasted vegetables stood apart among the cuisine being served. There wasn’t a guest that didn’t have a full plate.

“I love food and I love art, so marrying the two together seems like the perfect event,” guest Andrea Dono said.

Following a welcome from Byrne, guests were led throughout the Forbes Center’s various performance halls for special exhibitions such as dance and music performances, a stage combat workshop and a white glove mystery tour of art pieces housed in the Lisanby Gallery.

One minute, guests participated in a white glove mystery tour or watched a dance performance and the next they learned the ins and outs of stage combat or listened to live opera. One especially exciting feature was the interactive stage combat workshop led by associate professor Wolf J. Sherrill where guests learned different moves such as punching and hair pulling work.

The opening dance performance by the Virginia Repertory Dance Company was especially fascinating to witness. Loose timing combined with moments of sharp movements throughout the company created a thrilling contrast that made the performance intriguing to witness.

In addition to witnessing the performances, guests also had opportunities throughout the night to meet and talk with Forbes leadership members and the performers themselves, a group comprised of both students and faculty. President Jonathan Alger and his wife, Mary Ann, also made a surprise appearance to mingle with the guests and enjoy the food and performances.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for the patrons to see everything that our students and faculty offer and bring to the event,” President Alger said.

The night ended with percussion and opera exhibitions by professors Casey Cangelosi and Dr. Jamison Walker. From a marimba and bongo duet to a performance of the aria “Ain’t It a Pretty Night” from the opera “Susannah,” the final performances served as a perfect finale to the evening. Especially stunning was the ending operatic duet “Glück das mir verblieb” from “Die tote Stadt,” performed by Walker and opera student Jessica Crowell, accompanied by pianist Jeremiah Padilla. The duet was emotionally riveting and startling powerful in its delivery.

From white glove presentations to opera duets, “Taste of the Forbes” was an intriguing and fun presentation of what JMU’s Forbes Center has to offer.

Contact Jake Conley at For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.