The University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television kicked off fundraising efforts for the Marroney Theatre Renovation Project this past Saturday, Oct. 20, at the theatre itself.
The theatre, named in tribute to former department head Peter R. Marroney, is due for renovations amounting to around $7-8 million. After remarks from past and present leadership involved with the theatre, theatre faculty led attendees on tours of Marroney.
Julie Vance, director of marketing for the School of Theatre, Film & Television, began the evening with a presentation about the theatre's history and renovation plans.
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“We’re doing this to present to everyone what we’re doing; the tour highlights what the changes will be,” Vance said.
Andrew Schulz, dean of the College of Fine Arts, remarked on the work that happens on the Marroney stage and the high level of commitment from students that make the theatre what it is, as well as how the school wants to provide them with all the tools necessary to succeed.
“We are deeply committed to finding the resources necessary to make these developments happen,” Schulz said.
Schulz introduced the man responsible for getting the campaign started, Bruce Brockman, who previously directed the School of Theatre, Film & Television.
“We want to give 21st-century students a 21st-century theatre they can work in,” Brockman said. “We’re extremely proud of the work our students do, and we want to give them all they need to succeed in a very competitive field -- and you can help.
The theatre played a video about its history and some of its students who have performed on stage. Alumnus Craig T. Nelson was a special guest at the event.
“The echoes of this theatre and its past productions were inspirational, and they gave us a chance to dream and hope,” Nelson said. “I never lost the love and foundation that I got here.”
Nelson is most known for his role as the voice of Mr. Incredible in "The Incredibles".
In the video Nelson talked about his time on the Marroney stage and the memories he took with him into his career. “I was allowed to fail, which is what really kept me going,” Nelson said.
After Nelson spoke, Brockman went on stage and presented Nelson with Peter Marroney’s copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. Attendees were then welcomed to the reception held in the lobby of Tornabene Theatre.
Tours led by faculty members showcased the Marroney Theatre and its need for renovations. Brent Gibbs, a professor at the School of Theatre, Film and Television and also the artistic director of Arizona Repertory Theatre, was one of the faculty members leading a tour.
Gibbs led his group through the backstage of the theatre to the first stop of the tour – the scene shop.
“This is where we make plays,” Gibbs said.
Students build everything for plays and musicals in the scene shop, from wall facades and huge sceneries to bushes or picnic tables.
The tour was directed to the basement area where the craft shop and costume storage are housed. Both spaces were stocked full of costumes from past and current productions.
Renovation would open up the costume storage, providing access to a deeper orchestra pit. This would allow musicians entry to the pit without going through the house or the actual stage.
The next stop was the theatre’s green room. Renovations would allow the school to make a space for actors to gather while they wait for their turn on stage rather than the few couches and lockers currently available.
Gibbs led the group upstairs onto the stage, showing the space the orchestra takes up backstage because it does not fit in the current pit space. Deepening the pit would allow musicians to use the space and open up the backstage for more scenery and storage.
The lighting system in the theatre itself is limited by a lack of circuits, which forces the theatre to borrow dimmers from Centennial Hall -- which takes up space backstage. The renovations would allow the theatre to have adequate circuits for lighting as well as better angles for the front-of-house lighting by raising the roof to accommodate those changes.
The most impactful renovations are in the lobby, where elevators would be installed to allow patrons easier access to seating as well as side entrances of the theatre without forcing patrons to go outside.
“One of the things we’re really trying to do is improve your experience in the theatre,” Gibbs said.
Renovations are expected to take two years to complete. Gibbs says that while the theatre is under construction, plays would take place in either Centennial Hall or a site-specific space.
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