Foundation pledges $6.5 million to school

Meredith Compton

The School of Theatre and Dance has received the largest capital gift in Kent State history.

The Roe Green Foundation pledged $6.5 million to the school. It would pay for about half the cost of an addition and renovations to the Music and Speech Building.

The gift was announced at yesterday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

“This is the most exciting thing to happen in our school, the biggest,” said John Crawford, director of the School of Theatre and Dance.

The donation is part of an estimated $12 million project that will bring many new opportunities to both the theatre and dance divisions. Kent State will provide the remaining funds through appropriations.

The project will unite the theater and dance divisions in the Music and Speech Building, marking the first time the two programs will be in the same building since they merged in 1994.

“It will be so much better because we’ll have everyone in one space,” Crawford said.

The funds will go toward a 70,000-square-foot addition to the building, along with renovations to existing space that will be vacated once the School of Journalism and Mass Communication moves out of Taylor Hall.

“The building is currently not aesthetically pleasing,” Crawford said. “This will give it a whole new facelift.”

Plans call for a “black box” theater that will be able to be configured differently depending on the production to be held in the theater. This space will be used specifically for student and experimental productions.

“Students will have a space to work,” Crawford said.

The preliminary plans call for the addition to be named the Roe Green Center, adding a new, formal entrance to the school complete with an atrium and a cafe. The four-story addition will be located on both the west and east sides of the existing building and also will give the school something they have been lacking – a lobby for their theaters.

There also will be new lecture hall spaces, as well as labs for Pilates, therapeutic movement and rehearsals on the fourth floor.

The dance division also will benefit from the donation, gaining four new dance studios and being able to move out of the M.A.C.C. Annex. Renovation plans call for classrooms that can be used for both lecture and lab classes, allowing for a space for integrated classes.

“I can’t wait for the building,” said Eric Van Baars, assistant professor of theatre.

The donation is the culmination of a project that has been three years in the making to improve the space in the Music and Speech Building. The project began with a committee representing all the programs in the school doing a study on the space in the building. The committee then formally presented the study to Roe Green at her request. It was at this presentation the project was verbally agreed on.

“It astonishes me that she is willing to do something that will make such a big difference to students,” said Raynette Halvorsen Smith, associate professor of theatre and dance.

Green also is a member of the School of Theatre and Dance’s Advisory Board. Green started the Roe Green Visiting Director Series at Kent State in 2002. The series brings professional directors to Kent State for seven weeks each spring to produce a play.

Both Green and Crawford hope this gift will cause others to donate as well. Crawford stressed there are many opportunities to purchase naming rights for areas in the new addition, including the “black box” theater.

Preliminary plans call for groundbreaking on the new addition to take place in the summer of 2007. The addition will be completed first, and the renovations will follow. It is expected that the construction will be completed in time for Kent State’s centennial celebration in 2010.

Contact performing arts reporter Meredith Compton at [email protected].