Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stetson partners with Museum in Theatre Arts

Stetson University’s theatre arts program will enter a new era this summer when the program’s classes and performances move into the theater space of the Museum of Florida Art adjacent to the DeLand campus.

Stetson and the Museum of Florida Art have reached a five-year, renewable lease for Stetson’s use of the 8,700-square-foot main theatre, box office, back stage/scene shop, green room, makeup room, and the upstairs areas. The second-floor, north side of the building, will be used for teaching and storage areas, including the access corridor to control booths; and the third-floor, north side of the building, will be for teaching and storage areas.

The partnership will officially begin May 1, after which the university will install new performance lighting and sound systems and smart classroom teaching technology and make other improvements to the leased space, such as paint and carpet. Theatre arts’ space at the Museum of Florida Art will open in time for fall 2012 classes.

“How exciting to advance Stetson’s vibrant Theatre Arts program by partnering with the Museum of Florida Art,” said Stetson Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth “Beth” Paul. “Our partnership provides a unique combination of arts that is distinctive to DeLand, and reflective of the cutting-edge work in progress at Stetson to realize the exciting intersections among the creative arts disciplines. Together, we strengthen our burgeoning arts community by taking aspirational risks and daring to be significant.”

“The Museum of Florida Art was delighted, for the good of the cultural community, to partner with Stetson University by making available the Museum’s theater space to accommodate the university’s drama department and to provide it with a highly visible venue for its public performances,” said George Bolge, chief executive officer of the Museum. “This collaboration will afford the Museum the opportunity to showcase its educational philosophy of presenting fine art exhibitions within the context of an interdisciplinary environment. The convenience of participating in and supporting two premier Volusia County arts resources in one location should result in audience enhancement for both educational programs.”

Of more than 1,000 plays produced by Stetson’s theatre program and other groups since 1905, over 800 were produced at Stover Theatre after its construction in 1930, said Ken McCoy, Stetson theatre professor, who created the university’s theatre arts digital archive.

In 2010, Stetson adopted a new DeLand Campus Plan to guide future construction. Although university leaders determined then that the 2010-11 academic year would be the last year for use of Stover Theatre because of the poor condition of the building, future plans for the facility have not yet been determined.

Leasing the north side of the Museum of Florida Art, located at 600 N. Woodland Blvd., will give Stetson the space it needs for practical, hands-on instruction and the top-notch productions it’s known for in the community, said Julia Schmitt, chair of Theatre Arts and Communication Studies at Stetson.

“While it will be difficult to leave Stover Theatre, a building with tremendous historical significance both to Stetson and to the DeLand community, we’re all very excited to have the lease in place, and anxious to move in to our new space,” Schmitt said. “Recently, we were able to take several students on a tour of our new facilities, and they became truly excited at the possibilities for production. The presence of a scene shop and the upgrades that we are planning to make to classroom spaces within the museum are really going to enhance our program.”

Stetson’s final theatre production this academic year will be a festival of student-directed one-act plays April 19-22 at Stover.

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