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Department of Theatre and Dance

$1.5 Million Gift Will Add Acting Classroom, Improve Studio Theatre

March 14, 1998 -- A $1.5 million gift from an anonymous donor to the University of Wyoming will soon enlarge and improve Department of Theatre and Dance facilities for acting instruction, performance, theatre production and film studies.

UW Trustees today (Saturday) authorized a construction project to build a new acting laboratory classroom and to install a production control booth for use with the new classroom and an adjoining studio theatre currently used by the department.

In reporting on the gift to UW Trustees, Ben Blalock, UW Vice President for Institutional Advancement, enthusiastically commended the donor for his vision and generosity.

"This extraordinary individual does not want to be publicly recognized, but continues to give in a remarkable fashion," Blalock says. "It is inspiring to those of us at UW to see first-hand his willingness to provide financial resources to benefit the future of this University. His commitments go beyond this recent contribution for the Fine Arts Center and will continue to have a major impact on our students, faculty and citizens."

Rebecca Hilliker, UW professor and department head, says the project represents a much-needed expansion of the Fine Arts Center. It provides space where films can be studied and video production taught and the new equipment will improve experimental theatre productions.

"This new classroom will be our primary classroom for all of our acting classes. It will also allow us to teach acting for the camera, a much-needed new course, and new camera equipment to make this possible," she says. "It will also be a flexible space where we can show films for small film festivals on a regular basis. The studio theatre will then revert to its specific intention -- to be a theatre where we can produce fully staged departmental productions, new student works and advanced student directing projects."

Hilliker says typically, department students use the studio every day from 8 a.m. to midnight for classes and rehearsals.

"We simply do not have enough room for both activities and often have to hold classes in the hall when the studio is in any kind of production and classes often cannot be taught around its settings," she says. "When this project is completed, we will have a primary classroom, specifically for our acting-before-the-camera program, and a much better studio theatre for rehearsals and performances, such as the one-act plays written by students."

The 18-month project includes construction of a 4,540 gross square-foot classroom addition next to the west entry of the Fine Arts Center, video equipment for the acting classroom, and the installation of a light, sound and projection control booth between the classroom and the studio theatre. The capacity for viewing films will be around 200. The studio theatre capacity will stay at 110 around three sides of center stage in an arena-style format. Portable platforms and seats may also be moved to the new classroom for the showing of films.

The anonymous donor for this new project last year established the Gladys Crane Mountain Plains Film Festival with a gift of $50,000 to support and encourage creative studies at UW.

He continues to support the film festival, named to honor the former department head who retired in 1993 as a professor emerita, which had its inaugural season last fall and will be held this year Sept. 18-20. Once constructed, the new classroom also will be home to the film festival.

"A film festival is an ideal vehicle for educating theatre students in every aspect of film production," Hilliker says. "It provides an opportunity to study popular American culture and historical changes. In addition to enhancing students' educations, the film festival is another way that the University can serve the community at large."

Hilliker says the donor's wish is for the University of Wyoming to achieve standards of excellence and play a leading role in the nation's fine arts program, believing that a strong educational program helps build a stronger community.

"We also share his vision that studying films can be a powerful teaching tool and that our students need the experience of acting before the camera," she says.

Oliver Walter, College of Arts and Sciences dean, says the generosity and vision of the anonymous donor has been a good fit with the department's long-range goals. The College of Arts and Sciences developed a plan several years ago to renovate and expand its theatre and dance facilities for UW students and the public. An example of a recent project in the Fine Arts Center, supported by a challenge grant, was building a dance studio in 1995 in space previously occupied by the UW Art Museum.

"Building a first-class acting facility will serve Wyoming citizens and students well, providing outstanding educational and cultural enrichment opportunities," says Walter.

Posted on Saturday, March 14, 1998


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