Students participate in a dress rehearsal for “Aquitania” in the renovated black box theatre.Students participate in a dress rehearsal for “Aquitania” in the renovated black box theatre.

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    Willamette playhouse features state-of-the-art theatre and production facilities

    From its 45-by-45-foot black box theatre to its digital media studio to its open and welcoming lobby, the newly renovated Willamette University playhouse enhances creativity and experiential learning for students while serving as a first-rate performing arts facility for the Salem community.

    The playhouse reopened this fall after undergoing a $5.6 million renovation that overhauled the building's infrastructure, creating labs for combat training, dance, costumes, acting, prosthetics, digital media and set design.

    The building also features a theatre that can be converted from thrust stage to theatre in the round or any configuration a director needs. A net called a tension grid extends across the ceiling, allowing students to easily walk out and adjust lighting for performances.

    "These updates allow our students to train with industry-standard equipment in a wonderful new space," says Jonathan Cole, co-chair of the theatre department. "Willamette theatre students are known for being able to work successfully in any area of the theatre, and the renovations and new equipment give them even more of an advantage.

    "We are providing hands-on training for careers in professional theatre, and the new facility supports the kinds of innovation for which our program is already known."

    Originally built as a gymnasium in 1923, the building became the home of the theatre department in 1974 and was remodeled in 1978. The newest remodel blends the building's historical nature — art deco furniture and fixtures decorate the lobby and antique wire gym baskets and locks accent the dressing rooms — with modern design and amenities.

    In addition to the training labs and theatre, the playhouse features renovated dressing rooms and faculty offices, and a green room that doubles as a study and conference room when not being used for productions.

    2010-11 Season

    Willamette theatre produces four main-stage productions annually. The first show this season is "Aquitania," directed by Susan Coromel, a comedy set in a mythical kingdom that is based on the "Legends of Charlemagne."

    The play runs each Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are scheduled for Oct. 10 and 16 at 2 p.m.

    Tickets are available online, at Salem's Travel Café or by calling Travel Salem at 503-581-4325.

    To see the other shows happening this season, visit the theatre website.