06.01.15 @

The Lied Center for Performing Arts invites all members of the public to attend a free First Friday open house honoring the newly renovated Johnny Carson Theater and lobby and Carson’s impact and legacy on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. The event will begin at 4 p.m. in the Johnny Carson Theater (just north of Q Street, between 11th and 12th Streets) starting with a ribbon cutting and will conclude at 6 p.m. The Lied Center will provide complimentary refreshments to be enjoyed by visitors while they view the vast renovations made to the space thanks to the generosity of the John W. Carson Foundation, as well as historic photos and video from Carson’s long, successful career in television as the host of The Tonight Show.

Carson was born in Corning, Iowa in 1925 and grew up in Norfolk, Neb. He served in World War II in the Navy before enrolling in classes at the University of Nebraska in 1947. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio and Speech with a minor in Physics in 1949.

Throughout his career, Carson maintained a strong relationship with his university. In 1988, as construction of the Lied Center neared completion, he personally provided a major gift to finish the multi-million dollar endeavor. The Johnny Carson Theater, a black box theater which is utilized for intimate performances, master class and experimental projects, was named in his honor. Over the years, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received more than $13 million in total philanthropic support from Johnny Carson and the John W. Carson Foundation. As a memorial to Carson and his generosity to his alma mater, the University renamed the Department of Theatre Arts the “Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.”

"I got my start in the Temple Building and have never forgotten the impact of my academic studies at the University of Nebraska on my life and career," Carson said in November 2004,   just over two months before his death on January 23, 2005.

Thanks to an additional gift from the John W. Carson Foundation in 2013, the Johnny Carson Theater underwent an extensive renovation in 2014-2015. The transformation not only honors Carson’s legacy with a special tribute area, it will also greatly enhance patron amenities, provide more space and comfort for Carson Theater productions, and serves as a beautiful plaza and entry leading to the arts quadrant of the UNL campus, where Carson spent much of his time.

For more information on this event, email cchristensen22@unl.edu