Plans for new and renovated facilities for the School of Theatre and Dance will move forward as the result of a pledge of $6.5 million, the largest capital gift in Kent State University history, from The Roe Green Foundation. The estimated $12 million project will unite theatre and dance under one roof, occupying up to 70,000-sq.ft. of space, for the first time since the two programs merged in 1994.
"More than 300 students are involved in the theatre and dance programs, and I feel they deserve to have a wonderful building to work in," says Roe Green, of Aurora, Ohio, a member of the School of Theatre and Dance Advisory Board who earned a master’s degree in theatre from Kent State in 1980.
"The 21st-century facilities built as a result of Roe Green’s vision and generosity will allow two of Kent State’s outstanding arts programs to attain a new level of excellence and innovation, and a creative synergy that will provide students in theatre and dance with a distinct advantage as they pursue their professional goals," says Kent State president Carol A. Cartwright. "In turn, Kent State will provide Northeast Ohio audiences with an even richer array of artistic programs and performances."
Enrollment in the dance and theatre programs has doubled since 1998, and the school has outgrown its facilities. "Roe Green’s generosity will bring together all of the performing arts—-theatre, dance, and music," says Dr. John R. Crawford, director of the School of Theatre and Dance. "We will be able to do more collaborative work and present more student-generated pieces. Right now, we don’t have a place for that to happen."
Plans for the performing arts center call for a four-floor addition, including a new entrance complete with an atrium, lobby, box office, outdoor patio, and café area. The top floor will feature four dance studios and a specialized room for Pilates and therapeutic movement. The centerpiece of the new facility will be a "black box" theatre, specifically for student and experimental productions. These spaces will provide more flexibility to encourage theatre and dance students to explore and present their own work.
Preliminary renovation plans include classrooms that accommodate both lecture and lab activities, rooms for individual practice and coaching, and a technical theatre lab to support a new certificate program in entertainment arts and technologies. In addition, there will be two separate labs for learning set-making skills and for constructing the actual scenery used in productions. Also, there will be space to store theatrical sets that can be recycled; currently, these materials are discarded when a production closes.
"This will give students from dance and theatre the facilities they need to do their work," says Crawford. "It also will provide them with a space to collaborate, something we currently are missing."
"Roe Green's generous commitment to her alma mater will provide a state-of-the-art learning and production environment for our students, thereby enhancing further our well-respected programs in theatre and dance," says Dr. Timothy J. Chandler, dean of the College of Fine and Professional Arts.
Green says she saw the difference that private support made for Kent State’s fashion programs and wants theatre and dance students to have access to the same high-quality working environment.
A patron of the arts in Northeast Ohio, an area known for its cultural highlights, Green created the Roe Green Visiting Director Series at Kent State in 2002. The series brings professionals to campus each spring for a seven-week period in which they produce a play. This April, Vincent Dowling, lifetime associate director and former artistic director of Ireland's National Theatre, will direct The Winters Tale at Kent State’s Wright-Curtis Theatre.
Having worked in a theatre environment for several years, Green describes herself as a director and "backstage person" rather than an actress. She has professional experience in stage and business management at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, Cleveland Opera, and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. She also was a competitive ballroom dancer for more than 12 years.
Green has served as a board member of the Cleveland Play House and as the president of C.A.V.O.R.T. Inc. (Conference About Volunteers of Regional Theatres). She is on the women’s committees for the Cleveland Playhouse and Aurora Blossom Music Center. In addition, she is an active volunteer and donor to WomenSpace, which currently is constructing the "Green House," a shelter in Chardon, Ohio, for victims of domestic violence.
Groundbreaking for the addition to the Music and Speech Center is envisioned for summer 2007, along with major renovation of existing space. The construction, funded partially through state allocations, will likely be done in time for Kent State University’s centennial celebration in 2010.
Says Crawford: "We hope this is just the beginning of a renaissance for the School of Theatre and Dance. We want it to become the premier theatre and dance program in the Midwest."