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A sneak peek at the River Campus
After all the waiting, the River Campus -- aka the Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts -- is finally set to open its doors to students on Monday.
Now, the people Southeast Missouri State University exists to serve -- its students -- will get their shot at learning in an environment school administrators say is as state-of-the-art as possible with the millions of dollars available. Here's a peek at those River Campus facilities students will use to perfect their performing arts skills.
Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall
The Bedell Performance Hall, known only as "The Bedell" among River Campus administrators, is the centerpiece performing arts facility at the River Campus.
Construction of the Bedell won't be complete until the first week in October, literally just a few weeks before the first show, the musical "Big River," takes the stage. Until then, both the public and students will be barred from entry, as the Bedell will be a construction zone.
"It's got just about anything you can ask for," said Robert Cerchio, assistant director at the River Campus. The lighting and sound systems are "state-of-the-art," Cerchio says. And at a relatively small 952 seats, the view from anywhere in the house is great, he said.
The Bedell features a higher proscenium opening than that of the Forrest H. Rose Theatre, allowing productions to display sets in their full glory. The orchestra pit also raises and lowers. To compliment the Bedell, River Campus planners also built large scene and costume shops into the design and increased the size of dressing room and makeup facilities over what the university's theater and dance department previously enjoyed.
Robert F. and Gertrude L. Shuck Recital Hall
The Bedell may be the centerpiece of the River Campus, but the room that campus interim director Dr. Gary Miller loves more than any other is the Shuck Recital Hall, located in the old St. Vincent's Seminary.
The Shuck is in the same room that used to house a chapel in the seminary days, and much of the chapel feel was preserved by the use of original seminary stained glass windows, creating one of the most visually stunning rooms on the campus. History mixes with modern technology in the recital hall, where a computerized lighting system allows control of lighting to the smallest degree. A stage that can be extended and retracted to accommodate different ensemble sizes is also part of the Shuck.
Both the floors and walls of the Shuck are made of hardwoods to help reflect sound, with angled wood wall panels. Vaulted ceilings also enhance the chamber music experience. Even the seats were selected for their sound properties: They're upholstered in cloth that will help absorb sound, counterbalancing the sound-bouncing qualities of the ceiling and walls.
Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre
The Rust Theatre might be seen as the smaller, more agile sibling of the large and stately Bedell.
Only 200 people can watch a performance in the Rust at one time, but the experience might be unlike any they've had before. The Rust isn't what most people think of when they hear the word "theater." The room is called a "black box," said Cerchio, which is an accurate description -- the walls and ceiling of the Rust are painted black in order to provide optimal control over lighting conditions.
A lighting grid across the entire ceiling is one of many aspects that makes the theater "flexible" -- the audience and stage can be oriented in a variety of ways for the purposes of different shows.
The Rust will be used for serious, dramatic theatrical works that typically draw smaller audiences, such as "Coyote Ugly" and "Crimes of the Heart."
The Dance Studio
The new River Campus dance studio may look simple, as most dance studios do -- a large, open room with a mirror along one wall and ballet barres and a hardwood floor.
But like its counterparts, the studio was designed to provide the optimal conditions for dance and dance performance, including a light grid that covers the entire ceiling area and a control area for operating light and sound. The studio will seat 125 people and will allow the university's dance program to present intimate, in-studio performances. Thick sets of two doors on each side prevent even the slightest light and sound from escaping the studio.
Maybe the most compelling feature of the studio is its view, which Cerchio calls the best of the campus. One wall is constructed of windows which look out on the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. But when instructors want their students to concentrate on learning, not the view, they can pull the curtains and cover the windows.
Music Rehearsal Room
Music students will be spending a lot of their time here.
The music department's former home in the Brandt Music Hall had adequate rehearsal spaces, but nothing like the brand-new facilities students will practice in starting Monday.
Walking into the room its special properties are obvious -- there's no echo. Acoustic baffling covers the ceilings and walls, providing near-total absorption of the sounds that horns, strings and percussion will produce. All of the university's instrumental ensembles will use this room as their practice space, and it's located right next to instrument lockers that are protected by electronic locks that require a key card and code for access.
Classes at the River Campus begin Monday, but construction is not complete. However, administrators say the construction shouldn't interfere with classes. The biggest unfinished piece is the Bedell Performance Hall, which will be under construction until the first week of October. Work will also be continuing in the Glenn Convocation Center. And while classes are meeting, workers will still be putting small, finishing touches on items throughout the campus, said campus assistant director Robert Cerchio. Nicks will be painted, light fixtures will be tweaked and more. Cerchio said class schedules will be posted around the campus so contractors no when they can and can't perform work near certain rooms. "Anything that interferes with movement or learning will be done at a time that will not obstruct classes," Cerchio said. Whole sections around the Bedell will be barricaded from students and the public, who won't be able to enter the performance hall until its completion.