Theater construction on pace for fall opening

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Construction on the black box theater on Seitz Street is progressing steadily.

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Construction on the black box theater on Seitz Street is progressing steadily.

By Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke

Possible floor plan revisions, harsh winter weather and limited building space have not slowed progress on Duquesne’s $4.5 million black box theater project.

Shawn Bell, special projects division manager at Turner Construction Company (TCCO), said construction is still on schedule. TCCO has been working on the site since its groundbreaking in early April and intends to finish by Aug. 15.

The theater was designed by architects from The Design Alliance and will cover 10,500 square feet.

The site has been “buttoned-up” for winter, according to Rod Dobish, executive director of facilities management at Duquesne. Interior work is being done while workers wait for spring to complete the outer brick façade, which requires warmer weather.

Tuesday’s snowfall demanded extra precautions.

“Our primary concern has been ensuring safety—shoveling and salting roadways,” Bell said. “We put up plastic enclosures around the structure and are heating the site so we can complete the masonry.”

Part of the theater’s design includes flexible seating arrangements, featuring seats that can be collapsed and moved.

“It’s an emerging technology,” Bell said. “For about 75 percent of events there will be three-sided seating, but there may be times when you want seating all around.”

The plans currently call for 130 seats, but that number may change. Representatives from Duquesne are working with The Design Alliance and TCCO to pick a floor plan that best suits the University’s needs.

Bell also praised the idea of a classic catwalk structure that will allow the various performing groups to control lighting and props.

“It will be like a traditional, intimate New York City theater,” Bell said.

Organizing a construction site on an active college campus presents challenges, according to Bell.

“It’s an extremely tight site with different elevations on all sides,” Bell said. “We have to be extremely coordinated to get materials and equipment to and from the site. We also make sure the fence is up and there is enough signage to keep students or faculty from wandering into harm’s way.”

Dobish said the small space, sandwiched between the music school and Seitz Street, required extra planning. Despite difficulties, the building should be open in time for the fall semester.

“I think that’s because we have a great team,” Bell said. “There are great relationships between the Design Alliance, Duquesne and Turner Construction Company.”

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