BLACKSBURG, Va., July 11, 2007 – The arts in the New River Valley will soon have a new environmentally-friendly building to stage future performances as construction for Virginia Tech's Experimental Theatre is slated to begin later this summer.
An academic building with performance space, the Experimental Theatre will be located adjacent to Henderson Hall, with its breezy lobby slated to open right out onto the end of Draper Road on College Avenue.
This project will be the first facility that Virginia Tech will register with the U.S. Green Building Council and its rating system. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings and a LEED Silver Certification is anticipated.
Noteworthy from a sustainability standpoint will be the theatre’s "green,” vegetative roof, low-flush toilets and urinals, energy efficient HVAC, the extensive use of environmentally friendly and locally produced materials, and recycling of selected demolition and construction debris.
"This versatile building will be used for both classroom work and productions," said Patty Raun, associate professor and chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and interim director of the School of the Arts. "The new performance space is ideal for a variety of sets and provides an intimate focus on the theatre piece."
Shaped in a large square, the theatre will accommodate between 60 and 140 guests with audience seating that can be easily moved or removed, which will allow the entire space to be adapted to the artistic elements of a production.
"We will be able to explore audience/actor relationships of all kinds -- wrapping the audience around the action or putting them on one side in a more traditional orientation,” said Raun. "The outdoor courtyard in the small space between Henderson Hall and the theatre will provide additional exciting production possibilities."
Henderson Hall, which will undergo renovation beginning this fall, and the new Experimental Theatre will become the home to the Department of Theatre Arts as it will move out of the Performance Arts Building. In addition, Henderson Hall will house portions of the Department of Art and Art History and faculty from the Department of Music.
The Experimental Theatre will be 8,500 square feet and the two-story structure will blend into its surroundings using a similar red brick, a complimentary height, and windows that echo in appearance the windows in Henderson Hall. The canopy-covered entry on College Avenue was designed to serve as a stage area for future "Steppin' Out" performances. Movable glass panels at the entrance lobby facade can be opened on warm evenings. Similar panels, located at the rear of the performance theatre, open onto an exterior amphitheater.
"This is a space where the university and the town meet and merge," said Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam, "and we are excited about the possibilities for our citizens as downtown continues to emerge as the premier arts and cultural district of the area. This is one more example of how the town and university work together to enhance all of our lives."
"We have intentionally delayed construction of the Experimental Theatre this summer so that we may offer a full and complete season of music and theatre in the Summer Arts Festival and so that we do not disrupt Steppin’ Out," said Raun. "Several locations are under consideration for the 2008 summer season and we will be surveying our audiences to help inform that decision."
The Virginia Tech Capital Design and Construction/Facilities office has worked with MOSELEY ARCHITECTS of Virginia Beach and with BOORA Architects of Portland Oregon, as the design consultant. The project was advertised for bid on June 3 with the notice to proceed scheduled for mid-August. Completion is anticipated for late November 2008 with occupancy to follow soon thereafter.