Texas State opened the doors of its new Performing Arts Center to the community Sunday with a 45-minute “Public Spectacular” showcase that incorporated more than 200 student performers.
The old theatre building, known as the “round red rotunda,” was built in 1971 and will continue to be used as an instructional facility and practice space, said Timothy Mottet, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.
The Performing Arts Center is a two-story building featuring a main lobby on the first floor and the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre and Recital Hall on the second as well as a balcony, various classrooms and offices. The theatre was named after Harrison after she donated $8 million to help build the facility, one of the largest donations the university has ever received.
The Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre boasts a total of 397 seats. The theatre is referred to as a double-structured venue, meaning it is separated from the building’s recital hall by massive block walls that prevent sound from escaping between the two areas. The theatre has two levels—an upper balcony level and stage with a lower pit underneath for instrumental performers.
The second performance space in the center, the Recital Hall, has a total of 312 seats and is a traditional shoebox shape with a baby grand piano at the center of the stage. The hall with its wooden stage walls and overhead ceiling canopy will be reserved for musical and choral productions.
Richard Cheatham, the previous dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, was the master of ceremonies for the afternoon. Cheatham said he felt the need for a performing arts center five to 10 years after he became dean in 1985, and almost 30 years later his dream became a reality.
“The most exciting thing is to go from a time when this building was only being discussed, to seeing the final decisions be made,” Cheatham said. “Then to be able to walk into it when it’s completely done, there’s just no words that can describe it.”
The mid-afternoon performance was divided into four separate acts. The show featured members of Texas State’s musical theatre, Merge Dance Company and the entire Texas State chorus.
The performance kicked off with a rendition of the first-act finale of “Anything Goes,” the musical premiering on the Harrison stage April 8-15.
Zack Wiggs, member of the Texas State Chorale and music education junior said the new theatre will be instrumental in growing the department as a whole.
“(The theatre) is so beautiful and more practical for the amount of students and family members that come out to performances,” Wiggs said. “It pulls the audience in more than Evans’ Auditorium does and makes them feel like they’re part of the performance.”
In addition to providing students with a place to hone their abilities, the Performing Arts Center provides the community with a way to gain exposure to the arts that they may have never had access to before.
“Beyond what this building does for our students, faculty and staff, it also provides a new front door for the community into the university, creating a stronger cultural connection between Texas State and the surrounding area,” said Denise Trauth, university president.
Texas State has implemented a new automated ticket system that can be accessed through txstatepresents.com. The system gives attendees a new streamlined method with which to purchase not only tickets, but also specific seating for any show of their choice.
While this new space is now large enough to meet the current needs of Texas State, Cheatham said, the university hopes to eventually grow large enough to accommodate a 1600-person theatre.