Among the many construction tasks SUA is taking on this year, renovating the theater by 2017 is possibly the most daunting. The former theater, known as St. Angela Hall, provided both a performing space and a gathering area for large meetings. Built as a gymnasium in the eighties, its proscenium stage was then transformed into a greenroom before 2001, and a new, wider stage platform was then erected on the east side of the hall. From there, the house portion of the theater was constructed with raked tiers of audience seating, as pictured above.
Although this setup was satisfactory, it barely met the high standards of a high school theater. The stage and its backdrop mandated frequent paint jobs, the seats were falling apart, and the temperature varied drastically from sweltering to chilling due to no AC and limited heat. Needless to say, the Theatre Department was ecstatic when the Open the Doors Campaign was launched in 2015 to fund construction for an entirely new performing space.
Among the more impressive amenities planned for the theater are a professional orchestra pit, an intercom system for the stage manager, real dressing rooms, and a brand new sound and lights system. Not only these, but actual wings and a backstage area will be incorporated, as well. The most eagerly awaited installment, however, is an AC unit.
“We’re very grateful for this opportunity for the Arts Department. If you would’ve asked us when this would happen, we would have optimistically guessed it would be 5-15 years, never in the fall of 2017,” raves Acting teacher and Theater Director Ms. Hinkel. She and Chorus Director Ms. Jennings are especially appreciative that the theater is being renovated, rather than merely repaired. “We’re doing this right the first time,” explains Ms. Hinkel, “rather than doing a second rate job that’ll definitely need consistent repairs in the future.”
Ms. Jennings adds, “Renovating the theater is the exact opposite of the direction most other schools are going—which is cutting their art departments entirely—and we’re so thankful that Mr. Maliborski and Ms. Kramer are willing to make it happen.” However, this project is not without inconveniences and reservations. Guitar teacher Mr. Brown will be displaced into Ms. Rosen’s room during second semester, and any large group seeking a meeting space would have to gather in Keller or the gym. “It’s not ideal,” concedes Ms. Jennings, “but it is doable. Although stage instruction for acting classes is far more difficult when a stage isn’t even present!”
Ms. Hinkel consequently wants “to preserve the creativity we still had in the old space. Our players are known as ‘stewards of fun’, and we need to continue that nurturing of expression with the same dedication as we had in the old theater.”
From the standpoint of an alumna, Ursuline sister, and esteemed member of the SUA community, Sr. Mary Jerome Buchert ’63 adds that this capital campaign is for “far more than brick and mortar. [It is] an investment in human capital, our St. Ursula women. It will pay big dividends in the future, when these women become movers and shakers in family, society, and faith."
In the meantime, SUA’s theater students will be performing The Miracle Worker at the Anderson Center from Dec. 1-3. On January 28th, the Directing Lab class will showcase their one act productions at Roger Bacon High School, and Meet Me in St. Louis will follow, performed March 31-April 2 at Mt. Saint Joseph University.
When asked about the 2017 season, Ms. Hinkel shrugs. “If I could tell you, I would! But we’ll probably have a good idea of our show schedule by early January.” Until then, stay tuned.