The road was rocky, featuring a faculty/administration dispute, but Arkansas Tech University
is touting completion of the renovation of the theater and facilities for teaching drama at the Russellville campus.
The drama drama, as I once called i
t, included disputes with a long-time theater director, eventually replaced, over matters ranging from play content to the administration's concerns with safety of the old facility. That's all for the history books now, with a new facility.
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (February 21, 2014)—The study and practice of theatre at Arkansas Tech University has a refurbished home that provides the safest and most effective learning environment in the history of the program.
Renovations at the Techionery Theater began in spring 2012 with the removal of 22 tons of debris. Construction of a performance space with seating for 144 audience members, classroom space, storage areas and space for set creation began in fall 2012 and was completed in time for the spring 2014 semester.
Classes are now meeting in the renovated space, and the remodeled Techionery Theater will host its first production, “Live/Live Online,” March 6-9.
“We’re just thrilled about this new facility,” said Dr. David Eshelman, associate professor of speech and interim director of the theatre program at Arkansas Tech. “It has so many new and exciting features. There is a beautifully redesigned shop, lovely lighting facilities, new instruments and new ways of hanging them. It has all of these different storage rooms, conference rooms, a green room and a make-up room. All of these wonderful things will help students do theatre in a way that will make them feel very professional.
“The students have really appreciated that this facility is a testament of support,” continued Eshelman. “It shows that the university values what they are doing, what they’re doing is a real thing and that it matters. This building is a symbol of the importance of their work.”
The renovated Techionery Theater represents an investment by Arkansas Tech of more than $1 million to provide students with a safe and appropriate 14,200-square foot space to study the theatrical arts.
“Every single person who has seen this…their jaws have dropped,” said Eshelman. “They’ve been absolutely thrilled about how the architects were able to take this space and fit so much into it. Students come in and instantly start walking all over the place because they want to see what new things we have.”
In addition to renovating the physical structure that houses the theatre program at Arkansas Tech, the university also invested the past two years in defining the vision for the program moving forward.
That vision is known as the Theatre Production Initiative (TPI), which was drafted by Anthony Caton, head of the Arkansas Tech Department of Speech, Theatre and Journalism; Dr. Micheal Tarver, who was dean of the Arkansas Tech College of Arts and Humanities at the time the TPI was drafted and now serves as professor of history; and Eshelman.
The statement of purpose for the Arkansas Tech Theatre Production Initiative is to “act in concert with the theatre program’s academic coursework in order to bring innovative, challenging, and high quality works of dramatic art to the Arkansas River Valley.”
According to the document defining the TPI, the initiative serves three primary constituencies: Arkansas Tech students, the community of the Arkansas River Valley and the wider discipline of the theatrical arts.
Caton expressed his appreciation to Dr. Robert C. Brown, president of Arkansas Tech; David Moseley, Arkansas Tech senior vice president for administration and finance; Dr. John W. Watson, Arkansas Tech vice president for academic affairs; Galen Rounsaville, construction manager at Arkansas Tech; and the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees for their roles in bringing the theater renovation to fruition.
“I think we will see in the very near future a spike in terms of enrollment in theatre classes and the interest level in the program,” said Caton. “Administration has been so gracious to our department. Last year there was a $700,000 investment in our broadcast facilities, so we are looking at approaching $2 million for these two facilities. Morale (within our department) is off the charts. I cannot say enough about all of the people who have been involved in this process.”
Performances of “Live/Live Online” are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 6, Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8. There will be a 2 p.m. matinee to close the production on Sunday, March 9. Tickets, which are $8 for the general public and $5 for students, will be available at the door.
For more information about the study of theatre at Arkansas Tech, call the Department of Speech, Theatre and Journalism at (479) 964-0890.