Springer's McClure Theatre construction to be completed in August

sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 8, 2013 

Passersby can see the construction on First Avenue and wonder what the building is going to be.

The construction of the Dorothy W. McClure Theatre is a bit behind schedule, but that hasn't dampened Paul Pierce's enthusiasm. Last week, Pierce, the Springer Opera House's artistic director, bounded through the not-yet completed theater, showing off a classroom that will double as rehearsal space at night and the main theater, which will seat about 300, almost double the number of people that can be seated in Foley Hall.

The $11.5 million project adds 32,000 square feet to the Springer Opera House. The first part of the project, the education center that fronts Second Avenue, was finished in time for last summer's Theater Academy. The second part of the project is the theater and garden.

The education center, the theater and garden will cost $5.5 million. The Springer's endowment fund will get a $4 million boost and the remainder goes for historic preservation and maintenance of the 142-year-old theater.

"There's a lot of maintenance to do," Pierce said. "There have been just wear and tear with millions of people coming through the theater. We have to protect this precious, fragile national landmark."

Pierce said for 16 years Foley Hall has been the Springer Opera House's second space, where the Children's Theater productions are mounted, as well as the Studio II Series, featuring "smaller" plays and musicals.

Foley Hall will now become a rental space as soon as the McClure Theatre is completed next month.

The final show in Foley Hall is "Honk Jr.," an off-beat musical version of "The Ugly Duckling," which opens Friday and runs for two weekends.

The first show in the McClure Theatre will be "Pinkalicious" in October.

The space right now has drywall up and some rooms are getting the first coats of paint.

The main public space, the lobby and theater, will be painted a chocolate brown and a deep red. The furnishings will be of art deco design in cherry wood.

Patrons will enter from the First Avenue entrance. The lobby will have a box office and concessions stand. The side door opens out into a green space that will be filled with trees, shrubbery and flowering plants and benches. A water feature is being planned for the back of the space, that can be covered by a portable stage for outdoor performances and concerts, Pierce said. On cooler nights, the Friday night No Shame Theater can be performed outdoors.

Inside the theater, seating will be set up much like Foley Hall. In other words, portable, Pierce said. The stage can be round or against any of the walls with seating platforms set up accordingly.

The floor itself can be scenery, Pierce said. Foley Hall has carpet; the McClure Theatre will be a sprung floor made of several layers of plywood that can be painted and is easy on the actors' joints if they have to stand in one position for a long time.

Acoustic panels will be functional and add architectural interest to the theater, Pierce said.

Because Foley Hall was built as a rental space, it does not have the technical specifications that the McClure Theatre will have. Patrons will be able to see right away that lighting and sound will be much better.

Look up and you'll see a grid system where scenery can be hung. Lights can also be hung from the grid. A grid system is non-existent in Foley Hall.

Both lighting and sound booths will be upstairs, instead of taking up space where seating could be placed as it has been in Foley Hall.

Even though the $11.5 million project is finished, Pierce said the Springer is continuing to collect money. The theater is also having great luck with its new planned giving program, the F.J. Springer Founder's Circle, named for the theater's builder. So far, there's $2.2 million in the planned giving program.

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