Genesius theater hosts first audience

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor.  The first audience gathers in the Genesius theater.
Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor.
The first audience gathers in the Genesius theater.

By Kaye Burnet | News Editor

There was standing room only as almost 200 university alumni, officials, students and faculty crowded into the Genesius Theater Tuesday afternoon to dedicate the black box performance space with speeches, performances and music.

Even with additional seating, almost every seat was filled and many attendees stood against the black walls.

The simple black space can seat up to 130 people, with chairs set up on risers around the stage area. The ceiling is covered in extensive lighting equipment, and Tuesday’s attendees were treated to a colorful light show before the performances began.

The theater will serve as home to the Red Masquers, the longest operating theater troupe in Pennsylvania, which begins its 103rd season this fall with the Arthur Miller classic, “Death of a Salesman.” The space will also be used for performances by the Mary Pappert School of Music, Encore Show Choir and Spotlight Musical Theater company. It was originally projected to cost $4.5 million, according to a spokeswoman for Duquesne. Public Affairs did not respond with a final cost for the project by the time of publication.

Spotlight performers sang a selection from Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” and Encore Show Choir performed the piece “Irish Blessing.”

In the past, members of Encore and Spotlight have expressed concern over the size of the stage and the number of audience members it can accommodate. However, Emma Gray is a sophomore who performed with Encore during the dedication and she said the group will be able to adapt to the different arrangements.

“Compared to Peter Mills, with the curtains on the side [of the stage], this might actually be more room,” Gray said. “You can come out far into the audience. We might have some problems…but we’ll be able to work with it.”

The 10,500-square-foot space includes a rehearsal hall, dressing rooms and set construction shops.

“The rehearsal hall is gorgeous,” Gray said. “If we can book it, it will make it a lot easier for us to practice.”

President Charles Dougherty spoke during the ceremony and explained the meaning behind the name “Genesius.”

According to Dougherty, Genesius was a comedian and actor in ancient Rome who had a dramatic conversion to Christianity and eventually died for his faith. Dougherty said he is a fitting saint to name the theater for because his transformation to Christianity is similar to the way Duquesne celebrates the “transformative, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.”