There are no theatre majors at St. Francis University, but the arts remain a vital part of the school’s mission to instill and celebrate the power of expression. The “Box,” as it is called by the campus community, is the third and final piece in a decade-long effort to convert a utility and grounds keeping corridor into a new student enclave for the arts. Tucked into an underutilized corner of campus, an old maintenance garage awaits transformation into a student gathering space by day and a performance center by night.
The building aspires to reach beyond its concrete walls to create an arts commons space for students and faculty moving between practice rooms, painting studios, and stage production areas. This space also imagines a way to engage the larger campus community by transforming into an outdoor theater for nighttime events. With this culminating effort, the Department of Fine Arts will have a proper home to ignite and inspire in students of pre-professional programs a love of the arts that will long outlast their time at St. Francis University.
This project looks to create a common identity for the entire precinct by linking all three venues together with an exterior arts plaza that brings outdoor lounge areas, sculpture and performance together. An outdoor stage area provides space for bands and “theater in the park” performances. Translucent polycarbonate screening designed to conceal mechanical equipment on the building’s roof doubles as a projection surface and converts the entire plaza into an outdoor movie venue.
Designed to accommodate diverse needs throughout the week and semester, the facility is planned with maximum flexibility in mind. A new pre-function and lobby space supports pre- and post-performance activities during events but is also designed as a gallery space for the display of student works. Furniture groupings are scaled and staged to allow students to use the space during the day as an informal study & group project lounge. A “beverage bar” doubles as a space to support small banquets and less formally as an impromptu conferencing space for student groups.
The theater space supports up to 150 seats. Portable seating risers and seats allow for multiple orientations and performance configurations in the space. The structure above the performance area is outfitted with a power and support grid for maximum flexibility in lighting, sound configurations. The space is additionally outfitted with a demountable modular video wall to provide backdrop for musical, dance, and theatrical performance. Supporting the performance space, the facility will additionally have a scene shop, dressing rooms with toilets and costume, prop and stage storage spaces.
Four decades of alumni credit Fine Arts Professor Kenneth Resinski for giving the magic of theatre a permanent place in their lives. When Resinski arrived on the rural campus in 1967, he singlehandedly opened a door for students and the surrounding community to experience and produce theatrical productions regardless of their area of study. While currently in the fundraising stage, the new Black Box Theatre will bear the name and legacy of Mr. Resinski and continue his quest to immerse all students in the three-dimensional human experience of performance.