High 5: Top Collegiate Theatres

Creativity thrives when you combine the right people in the right environment.  It doesn't hurt when that environment is in a culture of learning and exploration, and it doesn't hurt when the space is interesting in it's own right! I've compiled my five favorite collegiate theatres in various categories for your viewing pleasure in today's fandom blog.  Some of these have fantastic histories and architectural stories to tell.  Without further ado, here is my High 5 collegiate theatres:

1) Most Regal: Cutler Majestic Theatre, Emerson College

The Cutler Majestic Theatre opened in 1903 and was designed by John Galen Howard.  Howard was one of four hundred Americans trained at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in the late 1800s.  Howard brought the lessons learned from L'Ecole des Beaux Arts back to the states when he designed this stunning theatre.  Intrigued by the newly invented electric light bulb, Howard utilized 4,500 light bulbs in his design to accentuate columns and stained glass within the hall.  This count does not include bulbs needed to light the stage! This hall has a unique blend of classical, art nouveau, and Rocco influence. Bar bet for this venue: it was once termed the "house of gold" because of the amount of gold leaf used int he design.

2) Best Use of Size: Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York University

Size in New York is greatly limited (even if you're building up), but the Skirball Center has been able to make the most out of their little space.  This venue has an 860 seat center and is located in the heart of Greenwich Village.  The center has partnered with the rich cultural heritage around it and provides a variety of voices and languages through the theatre's presentations.

3) Best Historic Theatre Technology: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, University of Michigan

Opening May 4, 1929, this theatre was designed by a Chicago architectural firm.  The hall saw a few revisions in 1995 with new carpeting, seats, proscenium curtain, and lighting equipment, but it has been largely unchanged since construction. The venue seats 644, and is used primarily for theatre and solo recitals.  It is one of the few US theatres which still have a permanent cyclorama.  A cyclorama is a curved back wall at the rear of the stage that improves the acoustics of the venue while also providing lighting designers an exciting canvas for lighting effects.  Many theatres utilize cloth cycloramas; however, the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre is one of the few left that still utilize a structurally permanent cyclorama!

4) Most Unique: Marjorie Walter Goodhart Theatre, Bryn Mawr College

Built in 1928, it is used for events across Bryn Mawr academia.  Recently the college "enhanced" its beauty and history through a renovation and remodel campaign funded by donors.  Part of these renovation made the venue wheelchair accessible and added additional performances spaces to make it a center of art! The McPherson Auditorium is what I find exceptionally beautiful in this venue.  The vaulted ceilings remind me of cathedrals and gave me the initial impression that this was a found space. Bar Bet: Found spaces are spaces that are used for performance but were not originally constructed for that purpose.

5) Best History: Purdue Theatre and Elliot Hall of Music, Purdue University

Designed and built during the Great Depression, Purdue University's president, in 1934, decided the school needed a venue large enough to accommodate the growing commencement exercises of the college. This venue was designed by J. Andre Fouilhoux, who designed New York's Radio City Music Hall.  This venue actually shows some great similarity with Radio City in the art deco motif, wide staircase to the auditorium, and cantilevered balconies.  Dedicated on May 3rd and 4th, 1940, 11,000 people attended the opening and were privileged to a recital by opera stars Helen Jepson and Nino Martini. The following year, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra premiered a commissioned work, "Purdue Fantasia," in honor of the hall.

What are some of your greatest spaces for art?  Until next time, stay exceptionally chic and exquisitely geek!

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