- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 17 February 2016
- Written by JAMILAH MCMILLAN | ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Less than three months ago renovations began to be made to Pollak Theatre to update the space in order for it to work more efficiently as a theatre. These renovations were completed on Jan. 22
Molly Huber, a sophomore theatre arts student likes the improvements. “The renovations have really taken Pollak to the next level. The theatre is absolutely beautiful and has been updated to accommodate for a much more diverse set of acts,” she said.
“The remodel has given life to the theatre and it will enable students, faculty and staff to enjoy so many more performances. Thus everyone should really care about it. Pollak opens the campus up to a variety of different cultural and artistic opportunities,” she said.
In its original construction, Pollak was not meant to be a theatre. “Pollak Theatre was built in 1970. It was constructed to be a lecture hall, and it was built to project speaking--it wasn’t a theatre,” said Vaune Peck, the Counselor and Coordinator of Arts Programming and Promotion.
According to Peck the renovation of Pollak Theatre was swift. “The theatre was completely transformed in a month and a half. They got in here on Dec. 6 and they finished on Jan. 22, the day before the snowstorm. It was amazing; I couldn’t believe it. They worked around the clock,” she said.
According to President Paul Brown, PhD, the renovating of the theatre was significant for several reasons. “Pollak Theatre is an important ‘front porch’ for Monmouth. For many members of our community Pollak Theatre may be the first place they see on our campus,” he said.
“On a more practical level, the seats were original to the construction of the building about 45 years ago and replacement parts were no longer available. The stage was not accessible for persons with disabilities, and there were a host of behind-the-scenes lighting issues. The venue was originally designed as a lecture hall rather than a performance venue, and the renovation addressed many of those issues,” continued Brown.
Some of the improvements included the expansion of the stage to a width of 40 feet, the adding of aisles and step lighting, as well as new carpeting. The desks were replaced with 700 theatre seats. The entranceway was remodeled with a set of brand new mahogany doors, and handicapped audience members can now sit closer to the stage due to new seating arrangements.
Furthermore, there were other improvements made to accommodate handicapped patrons and performers. “The hallway connecting the dressing room to the stage is fully accessible now. They lifted the floor to the stage, and put railings along it so it is ADA compliant. We have artists that might be disabled or in a wheelchair, and now they can easily get to the stage. Before they had to climb up three steps. That is really a nice element,” said Peck.
Before the renovations, the theatre was unsuitable for the transporting of large props. Peck said, “We had a play on the stage once, and we needed a van for the set. We had to carry it in over the seats. Now that we have double doors, companies can back their trucks right up and bring props in much easier.”
The Center for the Arts hosts over 145 events each year. However, before the renovations to Pollak Theatre, some of the percentage of live dances was restricted due to the size of the stage. “Before the expansion, the stage inhibited how athletic the dancers could be, and we had to limit the number of live dances. Since the renovations, we had a dance company here last saturday night. The dancers came out onto the stage and could do a full leap or run. They had room to really dance, and it was so beautiful,” said Peck.
Frederick L. McKitrick, a professor of history and anthropology, and an avid user of the theatre is grateful for the improvements. “I coordinate the HD Live Broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, the National Theatre of London, and the Bolshoi Ballet. We have about 6,000 patrons attending our 40 events per year. People love the broadcasts and many of our audience are setting foot on the campus for the first time. The new theatre is a great introduction to Monmouth,” he said.
According to Peck, President Brown played a big part in the renovation. She said, “When President Brown came in here to the first couple of events and he saw the building he became very aware of the fact that this was an auditorium and not a theatre. He picked up on this fact immediately. Then a few months ago I got a phone call from Patti Swannack, the Vice President of Administrative Services, and she told me that the president gave her a budget to start making some preliminary renovations to Pollak Theatre.”
According to Brown, the project had a budget of about $800,000. “Funding for the project came from our regular capital budget. We have been budgeting for the improvements for several years. The last major renovations to the interior of the theatre were done in 1999, so the time was right within our comprehensive buildings and grounds maintenance schedule,” said Brown.
There are still some aspects of the theatre that will be improved in the future. “We’re excited about future improvements, like renovating the lobby, and next month we’re expecting a new screen for the broadcasts,” said McKitrick.
“The most important thing for a lot of our patrons is restrooms closer to the theatre itself. Right now they use the ones in Howard Hall, and they all complain that that it is too far away. We also really need dressing rooms, and a common area for the artists to converge in,” said Peck.
Peck said that the new theatre is befitting of big stars like Rosanne Cash, and Arlo Guthrie, or large companies like Rockin’ Road to Dublin who are scheduled to showcase in the near future.
For Huber, and many others Pollak Theatre is a very important institute of the University.
“The very first time I saw an opera, The Marriage of Figaro, was at Pollak. The first time I experienced a live concert, Augustana, was at Pollak. And the first time I experienced a live orchestral performance was in Pollak, St. Peters by the Sea. Pollak is our resident professional theatre on campus. It is a beautiful space and can be enjoyed by everyone.” said Huber.
PHOTO COURTESY of Vaune Peck