What began as a conversation around a table has led to the first makeover for Centerstage Theatre at Umpqua Community College in four decades — a feat that didn’t happen without some creative minds, some muscle and a donor from the UCC Foundation.
According to Fine and Performing Arts Department Chair Susan Rochester, it took about six months to get the remodel approved. The goal was to make the theater area a more versatile, multi-purpose room — complete with a custom, buildable set.
When the theater was built in the 1980s, creators had the vision of a stage that could move closer to the audience or back behind the curtain. Sometime in the last 40 years, the mechanics stopped working and another stage was built over the original.
“It’s so long overdue, “ Rochester said. “What’s wonderful is that with the original building plans, there was a really sophisticated stage and room set up. The renovation is taking it back to that original thing.”
Workers found a motor buried under two layers of stage. For about $500 and a motor rebuild, the original stage has been brought back to life.
The 185 chairs have been removed. Some will live out their last days in the music department at Sutherlin High School. Others were donated to different community organizations. Seating can now be updated and customized to meet each event’s unique need.
“It’s always difficult to have a multi-use space, where you are trying to have classes and performances and then trying to prepare for building sets,” Rochester. “We ask a lot of the space and so this makes it all possible.”
New curtains and a wall will be added to the refurbished stage and new features have been added to allow customization for plays or expand storage units in the back stage area. The total cost for renovations to the theater is likely to reach $25,000.
Perhaps the most exciting part is the construction of a dedicated studio space.
“Our Theatre Arts program has never had a dedicated classroom learning space,” said Tiffany Coleman, director of communications and marketing for UCC. “The addition of the studio in Wayne Crooch Hall gives them an opportunity to learn and practice in a space other than the Centerstage Theatre area. Our other Fine and Performing Arts programs have dedicated spaces (art and music), but theater did not.”
The new studio is a former nursing lab. It contains a fully-finished dance floor, mirrored walls, staging area, storage and a small dressing area. Perhaps the only draw back is that the studio is in a different building, which Rochester says isn’t the best, but with the compact campus, it is still rather close.
The new studio will cost approximately $20,000. The funding for both projects came from the Mildred Whipple Fine Arts Endowment that was left to the college in 2014.
“I am really excited to see this freshening up of what had been a really dated space,” Rochester said. “And even though it is across campus, I am really excited to, for the first time, have classroom space that is dedicated to theater instruction.”