The $8.3 million Marlene and Barry Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts creates a dazzling venue for live performances and theatrical productions while providing cutting-edge classrooms and teaching spaces.
"We would not be here without our principal donors, Barry and Marlene Halbritter, Suzanne von Liebig, and the Rosenberger family," says Thomas R. Kepple, president of Juniata College. "Our new performing arts center will be a valued resource for our students, the campus community and our surrounding communities."
Adjacent to the renovated Rosenberger auditorium space within the Marlene and Barry Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts is a state-of-the-art theatre space that gives the college the flexibility to create new ways to see theater. The classic proscenium arch stage of most theatres is replaced by a free-form space unlike any theatrical facility in the area.
The Suzanne von Liebig Theatre features a three-story space with a performance surface that has no fixed seating, allowing for a myriad of staging and performance choices. The space can seat 175 to 200 people using chairs or a newly designed riser system that can lock banks of seats in place. "The company that designed the seating created a new seat for the system and they are calling the prototype the 'Juniata' seat," says Juniata President Tom Kepple.
The von Liebig theatre is dominated by a three-story window that draws the eye to the cupola ceiling. The octagonal roof design is designed to mimic the cupola of Juniata's Carnegie Hall (the Juniata Museum of Art).
A second-story catwalk holds the theatre's computer-controlled lighting and sound system, areas for lighting design, and a small space for performances or storage. A third-story catwalk holds lighting stations that can unplugged in an instant, allowing for maximum flexibility in lighting design. Behind the theatre space lies the scenery shop and a massive soundproof door leading out to the theatre. The building's lower level also has a costume sewing shop, two large instrument storage areas, two faculty offices, bathroom facilities for men and women and an elevator.
The Oller Hall building, which includes Rosenberger Auditorium, has a redesigned entrance plaza featuring an inlaid seal of the College, which extends the portico well beyond the columned entrance and provides wheelchair-accessible ramps to the entrance doors.
The auditorium has three wheelchair-access areas: a large central area at the rear of the hall and two smaller areas on the right and left aisles. To accommodate any visitors with hearing impairments, the college also installed state-of-the-art audio to complement the 40 assisted-listening devices available for every event. The ceiling has been renovated to improve the acoustics of the auditorium. In addition, every window has been replaced.
The once-drafty building features new insulation, supporting the new climate-controlled heating and air conditioning system that runs through the entire theatre complex.
The facilities for the performing artists, particularly the "green room," have been dramatically expanded. A large common room, outfitted with a kitchenette, seating, computer access and storage, has separate dressing rooms for men and women, each complete with shower, bathroom and makeup stations. A hydraulic lift in the green room allows crews to lift equipment onto the stage or to reveal theatrical effects during a performance. The two small bathrooms in the Oller Hall foyer have been replaced with offices for theatre staff. The spacious new restrooms are now in the new Esther Doyle lobby.
The Doyle Lobby, named for longtime Juniata theatre professor Esther Doyle, features marble floors, lobby seating and a convenient ticket booth. Architecturally, the lobby melds the classicism of the other campus buildings by the use of arched windows that echo the shape of the iconic arch of The Cloister residence hall.
The building was designed to accommodate two new majors within the College: a theatre performance Program of Emphasis and a performing arts management POE. Both programs will be a new area of recruitment for the college and Juniata is one of the few undergraduate institutions to offer a performing arts management major for undergraduates.
Below the main floor, is the huge movement and dance studio, featuring a 3-inch maple floor, theatrical lighting and seating for 85. "This will be the main teaching space for theatre," says Andrew Belser, associate professor of theatre. "The space has its own lighting control room as well as a small recording studio that can be used by sound designers or the College's IT and Digital Media students."
Another classroom space is more traditional in nature. Used primarily for the College's Performing Arts Management course, the space will be fully outfitted for multimedia production, including six Macintosh G-5 computers, digital video cameras, plasma screen television monitors and digital cameras.
The arts management POE will teach students how to operate all aspects of a performing arts center -- from artist relations to public relations. The students will run the ticket office, create ad campaigns, book touring productions as well as a host of other management duties.