Samford University School of the Arts officially opened Harrison Theatre at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 1. Guests included President Beck Taylor, Samford Trustee Board Chairman Bill Stevens, Davis Architects and Hoar Construction team members along with many donors and School of the Arts faculty, staff and students. Joe Hopkins, dean of the School of the Arts, presided over the festivities.
The ceremony took place at 11 a.m. with the University Chorale singing the Alma Mater as the curtain was raised to reveal the new front of the house that was extensively renovated over the summer. New seats were installed on a steeper rake to bring the audience closer to the stage. Accessibility platforms were added to provide seating for all guests. Two platforms have been installed at each entrance to provide new areas for lighting as well as access for performers to enter the stage from the audience side. The renovation also included upgrading safety measures.
Harrison Theatre has been serving the Department of Theatre and Dance for nearly 50 years. Retired faculty Eric Olson and Professor Don Sandley planted the seeds for the improvements almost 10 years ago while working with guest director Jason Barnes of the National Theatre. Barnes made some suggestions that were incorporated into the renovations. David Glenn, associate professor and technical director, drafted the first design and collaborated with the design and construction team throughout the renovation.
“The renovations make a significant difference for the audience experience, from more comfortable seating to better all-around acoustics,” said Mark Castle, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. “More importantly, we are excited to be in front of a live audience again and these renovations will enhance performances for years to come.”
The Emma Taylor Theatre for Youth Series production of The Wind in the Willows opened the season and welcomed guests to the newly renovated theatre. The next production is Crumbs from the Table of Joy Oct. 28-31 which is part of the Michael J. and Mary Anne Freeman Theatre and Dance Series. It is directed by Chalethia Williams of Miles College and is one of several collaborative initiatives between Samford University and Miles College. A Christmas Carol will be presented in the Wright Center Dec. 2-5. Tickets are available at tickets.samford.edu. For more information about the full theatre season visit Samford.edu/arts/events.