Teaching Theatre ‘one truckload’ from completion, to open for ‘Picnic’

Bobby Shipman

Eric Schmidt adjusts the sound panels on the catwalk two stories above the USI Teaching Theatre stage. Photo by Bobby Shipman/The Shield

After months of changed dates and empty rock quarries, only one truckload of sandstone  stands between the USI Teaching Theatre and its completion.

Physical Plant Construction Administrator Gary Burgdorf said the final haul of sandstone is out of the ground and waiting to be sawed to size for transportation.

“Right now the quarry is frozen,” Burgdorf said. “The saws have water which cools them and the building is not heated where this takes place. Anytime it gets below freezing up there then they can’t saw for us.”

Although the frigid temperatures have slowed construction, Burgdorf said the theatre will open for the season’s first play.

“We have held the theatre department off way too long. We are kind of bending the rules a little bit,” he said. “We are going to get in there and help them open their first play, hopefully, in February.”

Burgdorf said no laws will be broken for this to happen, but normally when he finishes a building it is a turnkey situation.

“I give them the keys and they take over. Well, in this particular situation, we’re giving them the keys and they’re taking over, but we’re not quite finished,” he said.

Although the theatre’s interior is 100 percent complete, they have to wait to place the sandstone before they can lay the concrete on the buildings exterior.

“We don’t want to run the heavy equipment with the heavy stone across brand new concrete. There are some more pavers that need to go in,” he said. “We are so close.”

Management and Marketing Director of University Theatres Angela Torres said that although the interior is essentially complete, there are still some minute details that construction crews are finishing up in the auditorium, which seats 294 people.

The Teaching Theatre also comes equipped with amenities like a catwalk, dressing rooms and a box office.

“In the dressing rooms there is a TV system, which is a closed circuit system that allows for the actors who are in the costume area to actually see the show,” Torres said.

The rooms also have a clearcom system that allows performers to hear the show and communicate show cues.

Underneath the stage is an open area the same size of the thrust portion of the stage where rehearsals can take place. On the stage there are panels that can be removed or lifted up to create a pit actors can come up from.

The theatre’s first play, “Picnic,” will premiere Feb. 25. Tickets are available at usi.edu/theatre.