In 1964, the grand opening of the Robertson College-Community Center at Catawba College provided both the College and the Salisbury-Rowan Community with performance venues for various theatrical and musicalEvents. Now 40 years after its opening, the facility will continue to provide those same venues thanks to some much- needed system upgrades now underway.
Christopher Zink, a Catawba College associate professor of theatre, notes that while most of the upgrades are “behind the scenes,” they are vital for the facility to continue to meet the needs of its users. The theatrical rigging systems (which raise and lower curtains, backdrops, scenery and lighting) in both the 1,500-seat Keppel Auditorium and the 240-seat Hedrick Theatre have been replaced. The stage drapes for both theatres have also been replaced as part of the latest renovation. The dressing rooms are also undergoing a long- awaited renovation that includes new tile floors, paint, new lighted make-up mirrors, new counters, and a drop ceiling.
The office space located above the Keppel lobby has also been renovated with fresh paint and new carpet. Additionally, all of the emergency exit lighting in the facility has been replaced.
Additional renovations are also underway in the theatre annex, formerly known as the Catawba Experimental Theatre. A new dance floor is being installed there along with drop ceilings and upgraded lighting.
This latest round of renovation and upgrades is an effort on the part of the College administration to keep the facility functional and safe for its patrons, students, staff and faculty. In recent years, other upgrades have included the installation of new seats in Keppel and Hedrick, new curtains in Crystal Lounge, and repair of the exterior columns at the building.
“This facility has served the community very, very well, but it had begun to really show its age and raise some safety concerns,” Zink explains. “There are untoldEvents that go through there,” he continues as he begins to enumerate some of these -- the community college and high school graduations, touring children’s shows, beauty pageants, dance competitions, concert series, symphony performances, theatrical productions, symposia, and even shareholders meetings.
There are still other facility needs at the Robertson College- Community Center awaiting funding. These include the replacement of the stage floor in Keppel and Hedrick, along with the installation of a new lighting system and a fire suppression and fire alarm system.
Zink and his colleagues are grateful for the current renovations and upgrades which would not have been possible without donors from the community. The theatre arts faculty know that the learning experience will be enhanced for the students and that members of the Salisbury-Rowan Community who use the facility will find the spaces friendly and inviting to use.
This year, a coup for both the facility and Catawba will be the hosting of North Carolina’s American College Theatre Festival and the N.C. Theatre Conference. That event is slated November 1-7 with performances to be staged in Keppel, Hedrick and the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre on campus.
Catawba College Theatre Department offerings for the 2004- 2005 season include:
Sept. 28-Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. “Playhouse Creatures,” Hedrick Theatre
Oct. 6-10 at 7:30 p.m. “A New Brain,” Florence Busby Corriher Theatre
Nov. 15-20 at 7:30 p.m. “The Cradle Will Rock,” Florence Busby Corriher Theatre
Feb. 15-19 at 7:30 p.m. “The Cherry Orchard,” Hedrick Theatre
Mar. 30-Apr. 2 at 7:30 p.m. “Exit the King,” Florence Busby Corriher Theatre
Apr. 12-16 at 7:30 p.m. “The Marriage of Figaro,” Hedrick Theatre
Apr. 19-20 at 7:30 p.m. “One-Act Festival,” Florence Busby Corriher Theatre
Apr. 26-27 at 7:30 p.m. “Danceworks,” Hedrick Theatre
The Department’s prestigious Peterson Emerging Playwright Workshop, with play and readings, is slated Jan. 18-22 in the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre.
“The college and the community owe a debt of gratitude to the late architect John Ramsay (of Salisbury) for his well-thought- out design of this facility,” concludes Zink. “I don’t think he could even have envisioned just how many thousands of people would pass through its doors.”