As various construction projects throughout campus are underway, one of them is coming to a close after almost a decade of preparation. Harrison Theatre renovations wrapped up just in time for the inaugural performance of “The Wind in the Willows” on Friday, Oct. 1.
“This whole project started about nine years ago when we did a show that was guest directed by a gentleman named Jason Barnes, who was a production coordinator with the National Theatre in London,” Associate Professor and Technical Director David Glenn said. “He made a laundry list of everything that he felt could be improved about the space.”
These improvements included adding ADA-compliant seating, more lighting positions, and reshaping the seating to be more acoustically and visually appealing.
“From an artistic standpoint, we took out all the seats that were there, physically lifted up the whole floor, so now each seat level is higher. By the end, it’s four feet higher than it previously was,” explained Department Chair Mark Castle, “The space is designed so the acoustic center of the space is slightly higher than where the audience was, which we only figured out over time. Like over 40 years, you go, ‘wait, there’s something wrong with this acoustic.’”
The updated floorplan was also designed with removable seating in the front row and the middle section, so staging can be built for certain performances that require it.
“We also on the sides created two new balcony levels that created a place where musicians could perform or lighting technicians could have followspots, or potentially, if there’s a play that needs it, actors could be up there to be performers on the sides of the space up high, kind of like a balcony scene,” Castle said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Friday morning between children’s matinee performances of “The Wind in the Willows.”
Dignitaries, donors and administration officials were on hand to witness the raising over the curtain and the new auditorium reveal.
Harrison Theatre will put on a performance of “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” in collaboration with Miles College on Halloween weekend. In the spring semester, the middle section of seating will be removed for “The Laramie Project,” then returned for a production of “The Magic Flute,” a full-length opera in English.