By Julian Routh | News Editor
Construction of a $4.5 million black box theater on Duquesne’s campus could begin in April, according to University officials.
The 10,500 square-foot theater, the first in school history, will sit adjacent to the Mary Pappert School of Music at Seitz and Locust streets. It will be used primarily for performances by the Red Masquers, the Spotlight Musical Theatre Company and other groups, executive director of facilities management Rod Dobish said.
The new theater, which will hold approximately 130 seats, will be similar to the Peter Mills Theater in Rockwell Hall, except in its own facility. Dobish said a lot of people do not know there is a theater in Rockwell, and that constructing a separate building will be “a good addition to the University’s footprint,” Dobish said.
The building will also feature a rehearsal hall, scene shop and storage room, according to John Lane, director of theater arts and executive director of the Red Masquers. In comparison to the Peter Mills Theater, the new theater will have better lighting and sound systems.
Lane said the new facility will give theater arts “more visibility” on campus.
“Students have to walk by it every day, so they’ll know there’s a theater on campus,” Lane said. “It is also going to have state-of-the-art facilities, which helps the program attract students so we can grow our program.”
The project will be funded through a combination of University capital funds and private donor funding, according to Vice President of University Advancement John Plante.
“We’re going to continue seeking donor funding, probably over the next nine months to a year to raise, as much money as possible for the project,” Plante said.
Duquesne officials presented the project to the city planning commission on March 4. The commission, which requires organizations to file their master plans with the city for any construction over 10,000 square feet, accepted the University’s proposal.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for April 1, but the date is subject to change. Dobish said they are trying to get the theater finished by June 2015, in time for students to move back on campus for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Dobish said they are still deciding what to do with the Rockwell space, which also houses classrooms. The Peter Mills Theater does not have dressing rooms or rehearsal space, according to Spotlight advisor Doug Kukta.
“People who have been stuck in Peter Mills Theater are kind of sad they are missing out on the opportunity to move to a brand new theater,” Kukta said. “It’ll be their own space. I don’t think we felt like we had our own space in the past.”