Remodeled space gives theatre students room for more personal performances.
CLARKSVILLE, ARK. (Feb. 21, 2006) -- University of the Ozarks’ theatre department is wrapping up a major restoration of its black box theatre in time for the late February premiere of a play starring Ozarks students. The biggest change in the black box theatre has been the installation of a $55,000 lighting grid. Aircraft cable was stretched below the ceiling to create a series of eight-foot square grids, composed in turn of two-inch squares, from which lights may be hung for student plays. “It’s like walking on a trampoline,” said Ozarks Theatre Professor Bruce Brown, who pointed out that students will no longer have to scurry up 16-foot ladders to adjust stage lights. The grid is accessible via a converted storage room that sits underneath the ceiling behind the theatre’s seats. Students built the platform and landing atop the staircase that ascends to the converted storage room, which will eventually house a professional quality sound and lighting booth. The refurbished theatre also includes foam panels lining the walls, which provide soundproofing. “We couldn’t have a whispering conversation on stage,” before installing the panels, Brown said. Black box theatre is typically used for plays presented with minimal scenery and lighting effects, emphasizing instead a play’s story and actors’ performances. The lack of a formal raised stage and the small, intimate setting allows the audience to sit as close as five feet from the actors. For Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things,” which Ozarks students will present in the theatre beginning February 23, one character addresses the audience from the stage while other actors actually sit in the audience. “It’s like having a conversation (with the actors),” said Brown. The black box theatre has been used for several shows at Ozarks, most recently for the play “Three Viewings” in February, 2005. The restoration gives the university three unique theatre spaces in the Walton Fine Arts Center on the Ozarks campus.