Wiring up the River Campus: New facility will be high-tech

Monday, May 8, 2006

Good performance halls don't just happen. They require lots of planning, and lots of high-tech equipment is needed for every aspect of the presentation of art, music and theater productions.

And Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus will be no exception.

"Any time you're talking about designing something for performance, it's automatically high-tech," said Gary Miller, chairman of the university's music department.

Miller is also interim director of the $50 million River Campus, which is under construction in downtown Cape Girardeau and slated to open in July 2007.

"The new River Campus will include some remarkable innovations," Miller said. "The technology that will be going into this is remarkable. There has been an element of technology all along the way in the planning process."

Miller said music tends to be less high-tech, but at the university's Department of Theater and Dance, a major occupant of the new facility, high-tech lighting and sound systems are already being used at the university. They will be moved to the new River Campus when it is completed.

Department chairman Dr. Kenn Stilson said theater technology is changing as fast as other computer-generated technologies, especially in the areas of lighting, scenic and sound design. He said his department is already using advanced lighting and design equipment comparable to almost any other theater in the country.

Some examples include moving-head instruments that are similar to what are used in rock concerts, he said. Stilson's department recently received advanced sound systems that are for the River Campus.

Another set of high-tech wizardry the Department of Theater and Dance will use at the River Campus is computer-aided scenic-design equipment, which includes mouse pads that function as writing tablets. The River Campus will have a bank of miniature computers that students and faculty will use to chart and pattern scenes for theatrical and dance productions.

"Technologically, we're advanced and just waiting for the potential of the River Campus," he said. "And once there, we'll be upgrading equipment because the technology changes so fast."

Lisa Howe, the River Campus project manager for the university, said there will be a lot of sets and special sound and video equipment.

"It will be the latest technology," she said.

Theater equipment, for example, will include $1.3 million and the contract for audio-visual equipment is set at $630,000. Telecommunication wiring is expected to cost about $800,000.

The River Campus will also be the new home of the university's Regional History Museum. Museum director Stanley Grand said interactive media will play a large part of the learning experience.

A number of exhibits will include fiber optics that allow a visitor to push a button and hear a voice -- in character -- that explains a historical exhibit, for example.

"We don't have anything like that currently," Grand said.

Business Today writer Jim Obert contributed to this report.

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