Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Performing Arts Building Takes Center Stage

Dancers perform "L'esprit de l'escalier," choreographed by Heidi Duckler ’74, to ring in the new Performing Arts Building. Photo by NashCo

Reed’s performing arts just got an 80,000 square-foot, glass-paned, light-filled, no-holds-barred, swanky new home. Years in the making, the Performing Arts Building is finally ready to take center stage. Classes are already being held in the building and its myriad rooms and performance spaces are beginning to hum.

The building opened Friday, September 20, amid pomp and circumstance, shiny red ribbons, and several gargantuan pairs of scissors.

The ceremony began with Blast!, a fanfayre for trumpet and synthesizer, composed by Prof. David Schiff [music 1980–]. Then, standing on the grand staircase that graces the atrium, President John Kroger welcomed students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests, giving thanks to the many people who ushered the building into reality.

“In my opinion, there is nothing more practical, and nothing that this country is more in need of, than creativity,” Kroger said. “But even if the performing arts had no practical value, we’d still build this building—because life without art is not worth living.”

Kroger's predecessor, Colin Diver [president 2002–2012] remarked on the challenges of planning, designing, and paying for the new building during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and called the birth of the edifice “an extraordinary act of creativity.”

“You will know it as the Performing Arts Building,” he said. “I will always think of it as the Miracle Building.”

Professor Kathleen Worley [theatre 1985–] spoke about the importance of the performing arts at Reed, about the long, hard struggle to get the support they needed to thrive, and how the advent of the new building signaled a new era.

Finally, President Kroger produced several pairs of giant scissors, quipping, “How can you have an opening without giant scissors?” He handed these to Prof. Worley, Diver, Towny Angell [facilities operations director 1989– ], and Rick Wollenberg ’75 [trustee 1998–], who proceeded to cut the red ribbon and commence the festivities with streamers falling from the rafters.

Built at a cost of $28 million, the PAB features a 180-seat studio theatre, a 99-seat black box theatre, a dance studio with a sprung wood floor, an airy sunlit atrium, a rooftop patio that might, or might not, quell students’ age-old desire to climb on the roofs, a technology center, a multimedia library and many secret nooks and crannies.

The building features an eco-roof that collects rainwater and a plethora of windows and skylights to make use of natural light.

The celebration continued the next day, at Community Day, when Reed opens the campus to our Portland neighbors. The day started off with the 5K Odyssey Run held to raise money for neighborhood elementary schools, followed by a pancake feed, the mouth-watering presence of food carts, carnival games, campus tours and, of course, a dog show.

Among the family-friendly mayhem, the celebration featured several performances, including “Celebration from Vashti,” composed by Prof. Schiff, with Todd Kuhns on the clarinet and Reed’s own Denise VanLeuven [private music instruction 2011–] on the piano, calling to each other from across the atrium. They moved around, switching levels and places so that the audience was kept constantly turning their heads, trying to locate the musicians in the air-filled, multilayered space.

The new theatre was rung in by a staging of the musical Golden Motors, orchestrated by Broadway director Johanna McKeon ’92, which takes place in the shadow of a fictional Detroit auto plant in the early 1980s. Other performances included readings of work by Reed playwrights Lee Blessing ’71, Bret Fetzer ’87, Anne Washburn ’91, Robert Quillen Camp ’99, Tina Satter ’04, Kathleen Tarker ’08, and Dominic Finocchiaro ’11.

The building’s dramatic central staircase inspired L'esprit de l'escalier, a dance piece choreographed by Heidi Duckler ’74. The piece was performed by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest, which includes company members Claire Thomforde-Garner ’12 and Simone Wood ’13.

See more photos on our Facebook page.

Tags: performing arts, alumni, dance, theatre, music, Schiff