2 Feb 2012

BGSU opens the curtain on the Wolfe Center

Author: Tara Keller | Filed under: BGSU, Spring 2012, Student Contributor, Wolfe Center

By Tara Keller

The paint is dry, the desks are installed, the curtain is up and the Wolfe Center is now open for classes.

This newest home of the department for theater and film marks the first completed American project of the Norwegian architectural company, Snøhetta. The $42 million project opened on Dec. 9 and a month later welcomed its first students to attend classes for the spring semester.

The Wolfe Center has sharp angles to highlight Ohio's landscape. Photo by Tara Keller

Ryan Miller, from the office of design and construction, has been working on the building as the project manager since 2006. He said he watched the Wolfe Center go from just an expanse of land to the 93,000-square-foot building it is today.

State, private and local funds primarily funded the building. Arts philanthropists Mary and Frederic Wolfe of Perrysburg, Ohio, provided some funds for the Wolfe Center, Miller said.

The building also offers many other firsts for the university and for the students to enjoy. The 400-seat Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre and the 120-seat Eva Marie Saint Theatre are the first theaters to be built at BGSU with the intention of actually being theaters.

The other theaters around campus were first designed to be classrooms or gymnasiums and were later changed into theaters, the Chair of the Theater and Film Department Ron Shields said.

The Wolfe Center has many windows to bring in the natural light. Photo by Tara Keller.

“These theaters are meant to be theaters,” Shields said. “The key element in these spaces is flexibility.”

The Eva Marie Saint Theatre is the university’s first black box theater and is named after the university alumna and Oscar award-winning actress. The theater is a black square room that enables the audience to completely surround the stage to view the play.

“The theater changes the relationship between the performer and the audience,” Shields said.

The Donnell Theatre also broke the traditional theater ground in terms of size. The theater is smaller than other college theaters, but the university chose to focus their funds more on the technology than on the square footage, Miller said.

“This theater is as good as, if not better than, most universities in the United States,” Shields said. “This is a space where students can learn the skills they’ll need to work at bigger venues.”

The Donnell Theatre will host the plays “Arabian Nights” and “Chicago” later in the semester. Shields said he is excited for the opening night of the first performance.

“This theater echoes the past and prepares us to do art for the present and future,” Shields said.

Vocal music education major Victoria Recker attends collegiate chorale class in the Wolfe Center and said that she really enjoys being in the new building.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Recker said. “My first thought was ‘wow, it’s incredible.’ It’s very innovative and geared toward arts majors.”

After years of planning and construction of the Wolfe Center, Shields said he is happy to finally work in the building.

“This is a good teaching space,” Shields said. “I think BG did pretty well.”

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