LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts Set to Rededicate Renovated Building
After nearly five years of work and restoration, the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts is finally singing the praises of returning to its long-time home.
The college will celebrate the completion of the $22 million renovation of the Music & Dramatic Arts Building with a rededication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday, Sept. 20, at 2 p.m. in the building’s newly restored Claude L. Shaver Theatre.
Immediately following the ceremony — which will include presentations by members of the LSU community, government dignitaries and distinguished alumni — there will be an open house where the public will have the opportunity to explore the renovated facility.
During the open house, there will be short theatrical and musical performances in the Shaver Theatre and studio theaters, plus presentations of the wide range of production, performance and educational capabilities provided by the building’s shops and classrooms.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house events are free and open to the public.
The day will conclude with a Sunday night performance of Swine Palace’s Kaufman and Ferber comedy, “The Royal Family,” at 7:30 p.m. in the Shaver Theatre. Adult tickets are $28.00, with a special rate for students and children. To purchase tickets, contact the box office at 225-578-3527 or visit the Swine Palace Web site at www.swinepalace.org.
Renovation of the Music & Dramatic Arts Building, located on Dalrymple Drive and originally built in the 1930s, was a four-and-a-half year project that included an exhaustive infrastructure upgrade. Not only was the building’s interior completely rebuilt, but the building’s new footprint included the addition of 20 percent more space.
The restored Claude L. Shaver Theatre will host some productions by Swine Palace, as well as LSU Opera and student productions.
The primary architect on the project was New Orleans-based firm HMS Architects, and the primary contractor was Percy J. Matherne.
College of Music & Dramatic Arts Dean Laurence Kaptain said he sees the renovation as having significance beyond the state, representing much more than adding space and upgrading facilities.
“There are three reasons that this project carries regional and even national significance,” Kaptain said. “First, it shows that in 1932 and in the depths of the Great Depression, the performing arts were fundamental to the people of Louisiana. They did not just build a building — they erected a structure commensurate with their vision of the elemental importance that theater and music play in society. Completing this project shows the respect the people of Louisiana hold for those who came before us and provided a direction toward creativity and the performing arts.
“Second, with the renovation comes the addition of a refitting of the building, adding the latest in production technology for theater and creative technology for music students. Best of all, the music and theater students will be training together in a world-class facility.
“And third, it shows that the Louisiana Legislature and community partners of LSU realize that the performing arts at LSU are essential for the move from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. They also realize that the performing arts are vital to economic development through creativity as well as audience development.”
Kaptain, who enters his first semester as dean after being appointed earlier this year, pointed out that the building was first constructed in 1932, at a cost of about $600,000.
The crown jewel of the redesigned building is the restored Claude L. Shaver Theatre, which will host some productions by Swine Palace, as well as LSU Opera and various student productions.
“Theater and dramatic arts have been an emphasis at LSU for many decades,” Kaptain said. “This theater is an indicator of the high place that these programs hold in the history of this institution. It's going to be a great home for the performing arts at LSU.
“What really impresses me is the degree of detail to which the architects, engineers and designers strove toward in maintaining the art deco feel, down to having highlight colors and other aspects that really draw the audience,” Kaptain said.
While the theater will be officially opened Sept. 20, Hurricane Gustav’s impact on LSU and Baton Rouge in 2008 led to the LSU jazz department’s summer concert series, “Hot Summer Nights, Cool Jazz” moving its performances to the Shaver Theatre from the music recital hall this summer.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to hold the series in this venue and have full houses throughout the summer by LSU jazz faculty and guest artists,” Kaptain said.
In addition to the revamped, state-of-the-art theater, the building will now be one of the foremost educational performance arts facilities in the Southeast. New “smart” classrooms, teaching studios, practice rooms and production shops will provide students with the most up-to-date training available.
“Each classroom is essentially a ‘smart classroom,’ equipped with state-of-the-art technology to aid in education,” Kaptain said.
One such example is the theater design studio, where students work to create scenery and aesthetic effects for stage productions. The studio has 10 drafting tables for hand-drawn projects, as well as 10 computers with design software installed.
“When people walk into a theater, the first thing they see is the stage and scenery,” Kaptain said. “Their attention focuses on the actors and costumes, but designing and building the scenery is a big part of any production. For Swine Palace and our theater department, we have a staff of faculty, graduate students and others who design and build sets and also design lighting schemes for the stage. This classroom provides them the best equipment to do that.”
Students also have newly renovated studio theaters in which to rehearse and perform, Kaptain said.
“We have a wonderful new dance and opera studio, as well as new ‘black box’ studio theaters,” Kaptain said. “The studios serve many functions. Theater students can have rehearsals, readings and productions of plays they have written. They’re flexible in terms of both lighting and sound.”
Music students now have renovated practice spaces in the new building, with another focal point being the new piano pedagogy laboratory, which Kaptain admits is “the envy of all other schools in our area.”
The state-of-the-art laboratory features numerous electronic computer-aided pianos. Classes in the laboratory are taught by piano pedagogy instructor Pamela Pike.
“Music majors must take four semesters of piano,” Kaptain said. “Having a great instructor in Pamela and a technologically enhanced piano pedagogy lab here helps make that process easier on students.”
Kaptain said he feels that the LSU community — as well as the people of both Baton Rouge and Louisiana — is getting its money’s worth with the renovated building.
“This is one of the homes for performing arts here in Baton Rouge,” Kaptain said. “We want to ensure that it is the best it can possibly be and that it offers the best in terms of education as well as in presentation for both music and the dramatic arts.”
To learn more about the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts, visit http://www.cmda.lsu.edu.
Aaron Looney | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations