|Renovation Plans Announced for Cunningham Theatre Building
January 10, 2007
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Engagement with the performing arts - be it the literary and cultural underpinnings of a play, or the self-confidence and human insight that comes from presentation on the stage - remains a vital piece of a liberal arts education. ~ Robert Vagt, president
Physical Plant Director David Holthouser and architects Albert Filoni and Robert Russ revealed plans to renovate Cunningham Fine Arts Building last month when President Robert Vagt hosted a weekend celebration of Davidson theatre for a group of parents, alumni, and friends. The renovation is scheduled to break ground summer 2007 and be ready for fall semester classes in 2008.
View the architects' design sketches for the new and improved Cunningham.
During the weekend students performed scenes from their fall mainstage production, Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, and from She Loves Me, the musical that took first prize at this year’s Metrolina Theatre Association awards. Visitors also enjoyed a behind-the-scenes lighting exhibition, acting and directing overview, and a tour of the set design and construction area.
Bryant Kirkland ’07, a classics major from Florida, spoke about his acting experiences at Davidson, describing the cooperative effort and personal fulfillment of main stage productions. Kirkland said, “Many of the best moments I’ve known at Davidson—moments of great laughter, of great creative discovery, even of great vulnerability—have taken place in Cunningham. I must credit the theatre department for both putting me in touch with my deepest feelings, and for inspiring me to enter without fear my greatest moments of growth.”
The weekend left many participants with a renewed passion for the dramatic arts. Dr. J. Chrisman Hawk III ’67 of Charleston said, “After listening to students about the impact of their theatre experience, I wish I had had the opportunity to take theatre courses when I was a student.”
“I'm confident the Cunningham renovation will provide an opportunity to reach more students with a theatre experience, and those students will be better for it.”
According to Jay Everette, past president of the Davidson College Friends of the Arts, the renovation has generated excitement not only on the Davidson campus, but also in the surrounding community. "I am committed to the Cunningham renovation program because I know people in the greater Davidson community enjoy Davidson theatre and I consider this renovation vital to the health of our cultural community."
A Presidential Priority
President Vagt spoke to the weekend guests about the integral role of theatre to a liberal arts education. He said theatre enhances life and learning on campus, and he feels a responsibility to provide Davidson with a theatre building that equals the high caliber of the other academic buildings on campus. "While at first glance this effort seems focused on a building, a physical structure, the primary aim is to provide the people and the program a setting which fosters this exposure to theater," said Vagt.
Ann Marie Costa, professor and chair of the theatre department, also made the case for theatre’s role in the Davidson education. “Teaching theatre is teaching life,” said Costa. “We teach our students self exploration, problem solving and collaboration skills. They develop strong listening skills, and the ability to be sympathetic, observant, and to take risks. All of this serves Davidson’s commitment to train leaders.”
Costa acknowledged that Duke Family Performance Hall serves theatre wonderfully as a venue for major productions, but noted that Cunningham is the department’s teaching and learning venue. “All of our acting, directing and design classes, all of our rehearsals and set and costume building occur in Cunningham,” she said.
More than a MakeoverCunningham is one of the oldest un-renovated academic buildings on campus, built in 1960 to house the visual art, music, and theatre departments.
After the completion of the Katherine and Tom Belk Visual Arts Center in 1993 and the Sloan Music Center in 2002, the new plans for a $6 million Cunningham Theatre Building will fulfill the final third of a campus master plan for the arts approved in 1989.
Davidson once again turned to architects MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni, Inc., to render the plans. The same firm created the innovative designs of the Sloan Music Center and the Knobloch Campus Center, which includes the Alvarez College Union and the Duke Family Performance Hall.
The renovation will replace Cunningham’s antiquated electrical, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and will reconfigure the entire interior of the building to optimize space for teaching, learning, and performance.
Hodson Hall (originally a music recital hall) will be fully transformed into a flexible theatre with 175 movable seats and seating platforms that allow a variety of performance formats. It will include a “sprung” flat wood floor, new lighting grid and upgraded electrical, sound and communications systems, and expanded lighting and sound production booths with improved access for technical and production crews.
Other main features of the renovation will include an enlarged, 1,550-square-foot rehearsal room, a thirty-five seat classroom, and expanded scenery construction shop with a loading dock.
For more on Davidson theatre, read the cover story of latest issue of the Winter 2007 issue of the Davidson Journal.
For more information regarding the renovation of Cunningham Fine Arts Building, please call Molly Shaw (704-894-2831) or Kelly Knetsche (704-894-2017).