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Dec. 5, 2001
OSWEGO -- The next time the curtain rises for a production in SUNY Oswego's Waterman Theatre, audiences may not notice the large-scale behind-the-scenes changes in the Tyler Hall performance space. But for the college's performing arts programmers, work that recently began on rigging and fixtures is worth cheering.
"Our current setup limited some of the things we could do with the stage," said Mark Cole, SUNY Oswego theatre department chair. "To have the space fully functional and safe and with as many uses as possible is crucial."
Some of the rigging and other components had exceeded their normal life of 20 years, Cole said, and lack of funds meant that patchwork replacements had to be made to keep it functional. "We have been lobbying for a new system for years," he explained. "This scope of renovation has been at the top of our list for some time."
The theatre department received a green light for the funding this year, and the college picked BMI, from Queensbury, as the contractor after the bidding process closed in September. The site supervisor is SUNY Oswego theatre department alumnus Sean McPhee.
Work began after Thanksgiving, with expected completion later this month at an estimated cost of $90,000.
The renovations include new rigging, battens, pipes, ropes and blocks. The act and fire curtains will be tuned up, and 60 renovated line sets will be installed.
Mary Avrakotos, who programs the Artswego Performing Arts Series, said she is excited that the upgrade will allow the college to return to previous levels of programming possibilities.
"With the amount of rigging that was off line, we have been really limited in our ability to bring complicated shows, especially dance, into Waterman Theatre," Avrakotos said.
She points to the next Artswego presentation, Squonk's BigSmorgasbord Wunderwerk, which had to be booked in advance of knowing the Waterman project status. That troupe's Valentine's Day performance was scheduled instead for the Ralph M. Faust Theatre for the Performing Arts at Oswego High School.
"The theatre department met the challenge with very creative approaches to the lighting and staging so that the audience was only minimally aware of the constraints the department was working with," Avrakotos said. "With 100 percent of the rigging back on line, Waterman Theatre will sparkle."
The rigging rehabilitation has already paid benefits, she said, as the project allowed her to secure a commitment from the Rennie Harris Puremovement dance company for next fall.
The first production to take place in the upgraded space will be "The Beat and the City," directed by Thomas Rhett Kee of the theatre department. The original piece, based on the writers of the Beat Generation, will preview Feb. 28 and run the first two weekends in March.
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