The arts at Virginia Tech have a new space. The environmentally friendly Theatre 101 building will hold its grand opening with a full slate of activities the last weekend of October. An academic building with performance space, Theatre 101 is nestled in the L-shape of Henderson Hall with its breezy lobby and front stairs leading out onto the end of Draper Road at College Avenue, which is where the ribbon cutting ceremony took place on Friday, Oct. 30.
“This versatile building will be used for both classroom work and productions,” said Patty Raun, Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Director of the School of Performing Arts and Cinema. “The new performance space is ideal for a variety of sets and provides an intimate focus on the theatre piece.” Shaped in a large square, the theatre will accommodate between 60 and 140 guests with audience seating that can be easily moved or removed, which will allow the entire space to be adapted to the artistic elements of a production.
“We will be able to explore audience / actor relationships of all kinds — wrapping the audience around the action or putting them on one side in a more traditional orientation,” said Raun. “The outdoor courtyard in the small space between Henderson Hall and the theatre will provide additional exciting production possibilities.”
The Experimental Theatre is 8,500-square-feet and the two-story structure blends into its surroundings using a similar red brick, a complimentary height, and windows that echo in appearance the windows in Henderson Hall. The canopy-covered entry on College Avenue was designed to serve as a stage area for future “Steppin’ Out” performances. Movable glass panels at the entrance lobby facade can be opened on warm evenings. Similar panels, located at the rear of the performance theatre, open onto an exterior amphitheater.
The first performance in the new theatre features alumna Michelle Krusiec in a play that she conceived and wrote entitled “Made in Taiwan.” Krusiec plays a one-woman tour-de-force in this vibrant tale of a displaced Taiwanese mother, the daughter who loves her, and the husband who must prove his fidelity. The internationally acclaimed actor will present her play five times over the course of the weekend.
Combined with renovations at Henderson Hall, Theatre 101 is the first facility project that Virginia Tech has registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and its rating system. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. The total cost for the project, which includes construction, furniture, and fees is $16,300,000.The Virginia Tech Office of University Planning, Design, and Construction worked with Moseley Architects of Virginia Beach and with BOORA Architects of Portland, Ore., as the design consultant. In order to help minimize the project’s environmental footprint, the project team incorporated strategies and technologies to reduce water and energy use, improve indoor air quality, and conserve materials. The energy model completed for the project predicts an energy savings of 33 percent compared to the existing Henderson Hall.
Henderson Hall and Theatre 101 is home to the entire theatre arts department as it moves out of the Performance Arts Building. In addition, Henderson Hall houses portions of the Department of Art and Art History and faculty from the Department of Music. Henderson Hall was built in 1876 and used as home for presidents until it was converted, along with a 1902 addition, into an infirmary. Renovated space includes critique and seminar rooms for the School of Performing Arts and Cinema and the School of Visual Arts, computer and design labs, costume shop, lighting lab, editing studio, scene and design model shops, a digital fabrication studio, and a dozen practice rooms for music.