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Performing Arts Center Debuts

Maddie Hanna and Molly Griffin | Monday, September 20, 2004

Students and professors from the Film, Television and Theatre Department donned costumes in celebration of their new home Friday as they, the marching band and onlookers paraded to the grand opening of the new Marie P. DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.

“This is where our students are going to learn in a way they never have before,” said Peter Holland, chair of FTT. “Every bit of the building is teaching space.”

Holland, clad in Shakespearean garb, explained the history behind the PAC, which he said was first discussed in the 1940s and then more seriously considered 16 to 18 years ago.

“It always takes a long time for a university to commit to a project this big. I think, crucially, what this shows is that the University believes in the arts.”

John Haynes, executive director of the PAC, expressed his relief in finally opening the center.

“[The PAC] took10 years of dreaming, and planning, and building and designing,” he said.

The PAC is a $64 million, 151,000 square-foot building that houses five different performance halls. It was underwritten with a portion of a $33 million grant from the late Edward DeBartolo in 1989, and was named in honor of his wife, Marie.

Holzman Pfeffier Associates of New York and Los Angeles designed the building and construction began in September 2001.

To ensure optimal sound, the building rests on seven different foundations to provide acoustic isolation between the various performance halls. The roof is also one foot thick in order to drown out the aircraft noise that results from the flight path over campus.

However, Haynes said the PAC’s state-of-the-art technology is not its only draw.

“What it [the PAC] is really for is to touch you in some way,” Haynes said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to, to change Notre Dame and make it a place where arts and culture are a primary value. Success is not just putting the greatest artist on the stage but having the students respond to that, the community respond to that.”

Ken Dye, director of bands, praised the PAC as “elegant [and] first class.”

“It’s a new era of music making,” he said. “The acoustics are fabulous, better than anywhere in the world, better than the Sydney Operahouse. The DeBartolos made a gift, made it [the PAC] come to fruition.”

Senior Lena Caligiuri, a theatre and English major, was impressed with the new PAC.

“We feel really lucky to have at least one year in this building,” Caligiuri said. “It’s just so far beyond the resources we have at Washington Hall.”

Anna Marie Ortiz, another senior and theatre and English major, who wore an elaborate red and white lacy dress reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, said she enjoyed the opening celebration.

“Oh, I think it’s a lot of fun,” she said. I’m excited they decided to make an event out of it.”

Visitors at the open house were able to view performances and films in the five major venues housed in the PAC:

u The Patricia George Decio Mainstage Theatre seats 350 and is intended for use as a traditional theatre space. It has a fly loft for backgrounds, as well as an orchestra pit for live music.

u The organ in the Chris and Ann Reyes Organ and Choral Hall was built by one man over two years from a 400-year-old Douglass fir, and the carvings were done by his sister. The venue seats 100 people.

u The Judd and Mary Lou Leighton Concert Hall is the most versatile of all of the spaces. This 900-seat venue has adjustable acoustics and can be used for anything from rock concerts to single-person recitals.

u The Michael Browning Family Cinema is the only theatre in the state of Indian with Dolby THX sound, which was developed by famed Stars War director George Lucas. THX is the most rigorous standard for film sound projection systems, making the sound both clear and loud. It seats 250 people, and is the site for the weekly ND cinema showings.

u The Regis Philbin Studio Theatre is called an “Experimental Theatre” or “Black Box.” It is a small, 100 person theatre that is painted black and has no fixed seating. This allows shows to achieve a level of intimacy and flexibility that is missing from a traditional theatre, and the black space allows for more effective use of lighting.

The PAC contains four classrooms, and it has numerous facilities intended for student use including 14 editing bays, a recording studio, a design classroom and a student lounge. It also contains faculty offices, a costume shop, laundry facilities, rehearsal spaces and kitchen/catering areas on the main floor and in the basement capable of serving up to 500 people.