Bedell Performance Hall Destined to become Performing Arts Landmark

Photo of the Bedell Performance Hall construction project.

Construction continues on the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall. Photo taken July 31 2007.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 7, 2007 — With the construction of the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall, Southeast Missouri State University has truly taken an enormous step forward in becoming a major performing arts landmark in the region.

The state-of-the-art performance hall is located in the new performance building of River Campus adjacent to the historic former Seminary building. The Bedell Performance Hall will be the site of ballets, concerts, musicals and instrumental performances, as well as vocal recitals beginning this fall. Because of its outstanding acoustics, this space is one in which performances will be appreciated to their fullest and is the only such professional venue in the out-state region between St. Louis and Memphis.

“Big River,” the premiere performance in the Bedell Performance Hall, will open the Theatre and Dance season Oct. 24-28. It is a hugely popular musical adapted from the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

In addition to “Big River,” other Theatre and Dance performances in the Bedell this season will include “Dance-apalooza 2008” slated for

Feb. 28 to March 2 and “Biloxi Blues” planned for April 10-12 and April 18-20. Four concerts comprising the Symphony Series – featuring the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra and a touring concert by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra April 13– also will be performed in the Bedell this season.

Touring performances in the Bedell in 2007-2008 include Shaolin Warriors on Oct. 31, followed by the American Indian Dance Theatre on Nov. 3, the St. Petersburg Ballet: “Swan Lake” on Jan. 17, “Late Nite Catechism” on Feb. 1, “Ring of Fire” on Feb. 13 and Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!” on April 26.

The remarkable 12,000-square foot, 952-seat Bedell Performance Hall is expected to attract performers of all genres and nationalities to River Campus and further develop the already healthy appreciation for the performing arts in this region. Its spacious seating capacity will allow great numbers of people to enjoy University productions of music, theatre and dance in a setting that is both beautiful and conducive to maximum enjoyment of live performances.

“While the University has, in the past, hosted a few fine arts touring companies, these events have been presented in venues not terribly ideal for large-scale, fine arts. The Bedell Performance Hall has been specifically designed to accommodate a wide variety of locally produced and touring events of any sizeᾰfrom theatre to ballet to symphonies,” said Bob Cerchio, assistant director of Southeast’s School of Visual and Performing Arts. “The closest comparable venues of this type are found in St. Louis, two hours away. Southeast Missouri audiences will now be able to enjoy the best available fine arts touring events right here in Cape Girardeau.” 

Consideration has been made for all of the details such as acoustics and technical conveniences that make a production best for both audiences and performers.

Seating for the performance hall allows the observer to enjoy a performance from a variety of vantage points that all afford an excellent view of the stage and that take advantage of the facility’s excellent acoustic engineering. According to Cerchio, in addition to standard orchestra level and balcony seating, box seating will now be available for the first time for guests attending Southeast productions. The Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall contains 10 box seats which will soon have corporate sponsors. Each box contains six seats from which the occupant will have an enviable view of the University’s latest orchestra performance, ballet or musical.

Every consideration has been made toward making the performance experience an unforgettably positive one for the audience. This includes even such seemingly minor details as the manner in which the hall is heated and cooled. Cerchio says that ambient noises from air conditioning or heating systems can cause unwanted distraction during key moments in a moving piece of music or a particularly dramatic moment in a play. Modern air conditioning and heating systems can be noisy and distracting in a performance venue. Thanks to a plenum system for heating and cooling, this will not be an issue in the Bedell, Cerchio says. This involves having a large reservoir, or plenum, under the seating area, with vents in the floor through which air rises noiselessly. This efficiency keeps a room at a comfortable temperature while avoiding the irritation of a noisy, forced air system.

Much of the magic of the performing arts takes place off the stage and is accomplished through the technology of lighting and sound. What the audience sees on the stage is only half of the marvel of a production. In the rear portion of the seating area is a control room from which the “behind-the-scenes” work takes place. Cerchio notes that in the backstage area, an intricate system of theatrical rigging (often called a “fly system”) ensures that all visual aspects of productionᾰ lighting, scenery, drapes, backdrops, etc.ᾰare able to be efficiently placed with minimal distraction from the actual performance. A technical catwalk running from the front of the hall to the back ensures that stage hands will be able to quickly get themselves and their equipment to the correct place at the correct time.

Adjacent to the actual performance hall are the costume and scene shops as well as the dressing rooms for men and women. The scene shop is large enough for sets and props to be built and then moved to the stage area. Cerchio says this will give students practice in creating sets in the manner of most professional theatre companies. Large doorways allow ample room for even largest set pieces to move easily between the shop and the stage. This will allow the stage area to be used for one performance while another is still in the building stage. In addition, the costume shop has been built with space for making and storing costumes on site.

Connected to the costume shop are the dressing rooms, which are also within easy access of the stage area. The men’s and women’s dressing rooms contain restrooms as well as large common areas and a center dressing area is situated between the two. The center dressing rooms can be made into a men’s or women’s dressing area, depending on the needs of the particular production. Two smaller dressing rooms nearer the stage accommodate the star performers of a play or musical who must access the stage most often.

In addition, the box office is located conveniently directly east of the entrance to the performance hall, allowing audience members to have easy access to their seats.

The Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall is named for Donald C. Bedell of Sikeston, Mo., an area businessman who was named a “Friend of the University” by the Southeast Missouri University Foundation in 2003, and has been a member of the Foundation Board of Directors since 2002.

Mr. Bedell has been an influential member of the area business community for many years. He received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and his master of science degree from Louisiana State University. He also has post-graduate work at Louisiana State University. Prior to his beginnings as a successful entrepreneur, he held positions with an independent telephone company in Van Buren, Mo., and with the Ozark Foothills Regional Planning Commission in Ellsinore, Mo. From 1970 to 1975, he co-founded and was executive vice president of a nursing home management company that founded and managed six nursing homes with 498 beds. During these years, he also developed 10 additional long-term care facilities through contracts with other parties. This initial project became Health Projects, Inc., a company he founded and was president of until it was sold in 1981.

Since 1981, Mr. Bedell has been president and owner of several successful businesses that have provided jobs and revenue for the region. One of his companies, Health Facilities Management Corporation, in operation since 1984, operates 34 nursing homes with a cumulative capacity of 3,334 beds in Missouri, Arkansas and Alabama. Mr. Bedell has been a founder of various business enterprises, including a management company for real estate operations, management projects for country western music, recording, publishing and restaurants. He also served as chairman of the board for several peripheral health care businesses and owned and managed hospitals and outpatient clinics from 1991 to 1994. He was chairman of the board for the Health Care Section of the National Fire Protection Association in 1986.

In addition to his enterprises in business, Mr. Bedell has been an important part of the banking community in this area. In 1989, he was elected as a member of the board of directors for Carter County State Bank, now First Midwest Bank, in Van Buren, Mo.  He served on the board of directors for Capital Bank in Sikeston, Mo., and the former Union Planters (now Regions Bank) in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Mr. Bedell has served on the boards of several worldwide, national and state health care organizations.  In 1973, Mr. Bedell was appointed by former Missouri Gov. Christopher “Kit” Bond to the Missouri State Board of Health and served two terms as its chairman.  He also served the Missouri Health Care Association in numerous capacities and as its president in 1976.  Mr. Bedell held several positions with the American Health Care Association, the world’s largest long-term care trade association and the largest national organization of nursing homes. He served as its president in 1990 and 1991.  At that time, Mr. Bedell was the only member of the American Health Care Association to hold all of its offices and has been the longest-serving member of the executive committee and board of directors in the association’s history.

An avid conservationist and sportsman, Mr. Bedell is an active member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, a Diamond life Member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and a life member of the Safari Club International. He has two sons: Donald B. “Brad” Bedell of Sikeston, Mo., who is president of the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents; and Bryan Bedell of Puxico, Mo, a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University.  Mr. Bedell resides in Sikeston, Mo.