Black Box Theatre. Yeager Recital Hall. McCrary Theatre.
Students and faculty alike will recognize these as the settings for many of Elon University’s performing arts productions. On these stages, countless stories have been told and memories made.
But with the help of a $750,000 gift from Elon parents Don and Ellen Scott, those scenes are about to get a makeover.
The Department of Performing Arts will soon be expanding its facilities in the Gerald L. Francis Center, which will include new spaces for rehearsal and performance. Among the new facilities will be a studio theater and multiple rehearsal studios tailored for dance and music.
“We are simply grateful to be receiving these wonderful spaces,” said Fred Rubeck, chair of the Department of Performing Arts. “Having the extra room will change how we work and allow us to continue to grow and improve our productions.”
The department is currently housed in the Center for the Arts, a 75,000-square-foot facility that many might think is big enough to fulfill the department’s needs. But the quality of Elon’s productions requires sufficient rehearsal space that the Center cannot offer, according to Rubeck.
“In order to present plays, dance concerts and musicals in a theater, we need to rehearse in a room that approximates the size and shape of the theater,” he said. “We spend more than twice the time in the rehearsal space than we do in the theater itself, so (it is) a very important facility for us. This is especially true since McCrary Theatre also houses events for other departments and programs. Having a room that allows us to more accurately prepare will help us enormously.”
But faculty members aren’t the only ones clamoring for more rehearsal space. Students, such as junior music theater major Karrah Fleshman, are also finding they need more room to grow.
“We were outgrowing the current performing arts center,” Fleshman said. “Singing, dancing and acting - these are our classes, our grades. It’s necessary that each student have that time and that space to do their homework. This new addition came at the perfect time.”
Members of the department shouldn’t be hasty, though, Rubeck said. Although the Scotts’ generous donation has fulfilled much of the financial need, fundraising is incomplete.
“Construction will not begin until the remaining funds are raised,” Rubeck said. “I expect that once construction begins, it will take nine to 12 months.”
The project, which will ultimately be named the Scott Studios, will be a 13,000-square-foot expansion of the northwest corner of the Gerald L. Francis Center, named after Elon’s executive vice president and former provost Gerry Francis. The center currently houses the School of Health Sciences, which is largely made up of Elon’s physical therapy and physician assistant studies programs.
But when the Department of Performing Arts’ new facilities are complete, its program will be enhanced tenfold, according to Rubeck.
“(The facilities will give us) space to create, space to learn, space to work and an expansion of our home for our growing performing arts family,” Rubeck said.
Fleshman said she agrees that when it comes to performing arts, bigger is better.
“I think it will help the department immensely as well as help us maintain the caliber of talent that we incorporate into every recital, cabaret or piece of theater,” Fleshman said. “The more space we have, the more we can do, and the larger amount of students we can showcase.”