New NU theater gearing up
It's hard to miss that there's a new addition to Niagara University's campus. This year, the Leary Theatre is getting a makeover.
Greg Fletcher, director of the NU Theatre Department, was able to give a bit more information about what the construction will look like once completed. The Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, as it will be named, is a $3.1 million renovation project, which will hold about 135 people. Fletcher said much of the theater's new look is built around making sure the audience is comfortable. The new seats will be considerably wider than before. Fletcher's comparison was that while the standard Broadway seating is between 18 to 20 inches, the new theater's seats will be a full two-feet wide. The new space is scheduled to have soundproofing as well as air conditioning and heating. In addition, a new lobby built entirely from the ground up - where the old Commons on the Ridge used to be (a concessions area will be added). The stage will be constructed differently; the old Leary had a wide thrust-style stage, but the new one is an "intimate proscenium" according to Fletcher.
Of course, a nice little side note to this all, is that they are "definitely embracing NU purple" according to the director: the curtain and the carpeting in the new theater is going to be Niagara purple.
On top of everything else, the theater will finally have a permanent, official box office, with a computer system that will run everything.
So, what's happening with all the rumors that the dining hall is moving, and the theatre department is taking over that entire area?
Well, between Fletcher and Judy Willard, assistant to the president for planning, the scoop on the "university's master plan". In short, that is the eventual goal. The dining hall will move to the back/east end of the current main lot, and the parking lot that is there will disappear, creating a green space. Around that will be the new science building a second academic building, and of course, the new dining hall.
Where Clet Dining currently is will turn into an area for rehearsal and dance studios, classrooms, offices - essentially moving of the whole theater department there, and freeing up the first floor Laboure wing for dorm rooms. However, there is no timeline set for this project.
The keys to the new theater get handed over in Feb. 2010 and the official opening is set for the May 1 gala performance of "Anything Goes" (and "they're on schedule so far" Fletcher said).
What does the student body think of this? The theater majors are ecstatic. When asked what she thought the best part of having the new space will be, Rachel Baron, performance theater senior, said, "Having a space made for theater. It allows for expansions of sets and scenery."
Victoria Wolcott, also a senior theater major, said, "It'll help make our shows here even better than they already are." In contrast, another senior student said "I didn't think anything was wrong with the old theater."