River Campus Flexible Theatre to Offer Audiences, Students Greater Variety



Aug. 13, 2007 –  While many people have attended a theatre performance, not many of them have experienced a performance in a flexible theatre, with the unique atmosphere only these “black box” theatres can offer, according to Dr. Rob Dillon, professor of theatre and dance at Southeast.

The Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre, located in the Cultural Arts Center at Southeast’s River Campus, will offer the perfect opportunity for audiences to do just that.

The flexible theatre is, as its name implies, adaptable in nature. All 200 seats and the stage have the flexibility to be configured in many ways to allow for various viewing arrangements.

“The flexibility gives us the capacity to arrange the theatre to fit the performance, including a traditional proscenium arrangement, theater in the round, placing the audience around three sides of the stage, or scattering the audience throughout a playing area,” Dillon said. “We can adapt and change and shift things around; we can even sit the audience partly in the action. The flex theatre will offer unlimited possibilities for performance environments – I don’t think we’ll ever exhaust the possibilities,” he said.

“The cool thing about flex theatres are the types of things that can be done there – more cutting-edge and artistically interesting performances,” Dillon said. “The environment is more intimate, and the flexibility lends itself to experimental, avant-garde shows. That’s not to say we wouldn’t do Shakespeare or classical theatre, but we will approach them differently,” he said.

Both students and audiences will benefit from the Rust Flexible Theatre’s unique offerings and the exposure to more unconventional performances.

“Students need exposure to a wide variety of things,” Dillon said. “The flexibility makes it exciting educationally. It will be a great opportunity for students to work with experimental and cutting-edge theatre. They will get to pull everything back and make it more intense.”

The students will have their first opportunity to do just that when the theatre’s first show, “Coyote Ugly,” opens Nov. 28.

“‘Coyote Ugly’ is not like the movie and saloon most people are familiar with,” Dillon said. “It’s a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family in Arizona. It’s very funny, yet very dark and sad. It’s very suited to the flex environment, and audiences can expect it to be staged in an interesting way. We may have lots of sand,” he hinted.

Audiences will have the opportunity to see plays they wouldn’t typically see on tour or in large performance halls, and carefully crafted details also will ensure guests enjoy a better theatre experience in the process.

“Compared to the converted classroom with folding metal chairs that we’ve been using as a flexible theatre, this new ‘scratch-built’ theatre will be much nicer,” Dillon said. “Patrons will be a lot more comfortable. It’s very plush in comparison, and the lobby, box office and restrooms are more convenient. Aesthetically, it’s a much nicer theatre experience. The lobby and concession areas it shares with the Bedell are spacious and the traffic flow is wonderfully well designed.”

Double foyer doors at the entrance to the theatre will prevent distractions caused by noise and light when patrons enter and exit during performances.

State-of-the-art technology also will complement the quality of shows performed in the flexible theatre. A control room at the rear of the theatre provides for stage management, lighting control and sound control. Sound can also relocate temporarily into the auditorium as needed for rehearsal or performances by plugging the control console into built-in faceplates located at floor level. To maximize efficient use of resources, the flexible theatre shares its front-of-house public spaces and back-of-house support spaces with the other performance spaces in the building.

“The technology is pretty cutting-edge,” Dillon said. “We are blessed with excellent technical people and a good supply of instruments. Everything ought to be pretty darn good.

“The flex theatre is another part of the River Campus equation, and it all equals nicer facilities for our patrons, our students and the arts,” he added. “Everyone in the region will go to the same place for concerts, plays and the museum. It’s going to be nice; people will love it.”