TSU opens Stephens Hall with gala


Stephens Hall, the impressive Victorian building facing York Road on the Towson State University campus, and its theater have undergone a complete renovation making the 75-year-old building a state-of-the-art facility.

Polished birch wood accents the original turn-of-the-century stylthe remodeled theater. A gala featuring an invitation-only performance of TSU's Maryland Arts Festival production of "West Side Story," directed by Ken Urmston, will be held in the theater Saturday evening. The occasion also commemorates the anniversary of Towson State University.

"The new theater will be used for opera productions and musical theater and dance presentations," said Tom Cascella, TSU technical director who has taught stagecraft and scenic design for the past 14 years.

Constructed in 1915, when Towson State was known as thState Normal School, the structure was the university's former -- administration building. The old theater was used as a dance and music concert hall, a gymnasium and film and lecture space.

Ten rows of seats were removed so the stage could be enlarged and for an orchestra pit. "The renovation cut down the seating from 900 to 723," Cascella said. "The balcony was completely rebuilt and extended eight or nine rows."

New additions to the theater include: separate, large dressing rooms for men and women equipped with speakers, lockers and showers; storage space; a fully trapped stage floor that allows actors to enter from beneath the stage; a lighting system; a computer-controlled 16-line fly system; a stage curtain; and an elaborate sound system looped for the hearing impaired.

An elevator leading from the stage to the dressing rooms below for the use of disabled performers has been installed. There is also access for 20 wheelchairs under the balcony.

"The cost of renovating the Stephens Hall Theatre, a four-year process, was approximately $3.6 million," Cascella said.

"West Side Story" will open for the public on June 28 and continue through June 13. For further information, call 830-4013.

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