BPAC Renovations Underway

by Lauren Hodson

As the dirt construction lot begins to diminish, the Blank Performing Arts Center continues to expand through recent renovations.  Beginning Alumni Weekend in June, construction continues with the start of a new school year at Simpson College.

The total expansion of 17,000 square feet will provide classrooms for labs, directing, lighting, costuming and other theater related courses.  One non-traditional classroom will feature mirrored walls and appropriate rooms for dance choreography and rehearsals. Mobile computers and lighting systems will provide adequate resources and tools for scenic and lighting design courses offered through Simpson College.

Another traditional classroom designed to hold 40 to 50 students will probably be utilized as a place to hold introductory and cornerstone theater classes as well as others. Two seminar-sized classrooms have also been included in the renovations for multi-purpose uses.

Pote Theater, which currently seats 500 people, will feature additional handicap accessible seating. An elevator capable of reaching each level of the theater will allow the entire Blank Performing Arts Center to be accessible from essentially every direction while meeting the needs of each patron.

Current restrooms in the theatre will also undergo reconstruction along with new ones being added.

“I think that the Blank Performing Arts Center renovation will positively impact the entire campus,” Katie Rooney said, senior theatre production and undergraduate assistant.  “The renovation will open up more spaces on campus for student groups to hold activities, the building will finally be handicap accessible and students will have more spaces to learn.”

The Blank Performing Arts Center is utilized for a variety of events performed and hosted by not only students and staff of Simpson College, but through the community as well.  The theater has been used for lectures, visiting artists, and groups and organizations outside of campus.

“The renovations will make the building and the campus more appealing to potential students, members of the community and patrons of the arts,” Theatre Department Chair Chair Tom Woldt said.

As ground is exposed during the renovations, Professor of Theater Arts Jennifer Nostrala also unearths history behind the scenes of the theater at Simpson College.

In 1947, plans were prepared and blueprints were drawn for the new Simpson College Little Theater.  Many of the planning ideas were from the thoughts and suggestions of Simpson theater students.  Apart from the electrical work, the theater was constructed by building and grounds staff of Simpson College.

Now more than six decades later, Simpson College is expanding their theatrical horizon again.  All renovations of Blank Performing Arts Center have been made possible by funding through the Blank family, grants, and financial contributions from Simpson alumni. The new addition to the Blank Performing Arts Center is predicted to be completed by May 2011.

“What’s interesting is that we plan for the future by the renovation,” Nostrala said.  “We can’t help but wonder what’s before us.”

This fall’s upcoming performances include “Betrayal,” Harold Pinter’s translation of love and deception, appearing on stage in October.  For those who have an interest in comedy and entertainment, “The Learned Ladies” by Moliere will take center stage in November.