Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Liberal Arts News

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

View a photo gallery of the theatre

From its 45-by-45-foot black box theatre to its digital media studio and new lobby, the renovated Willamette 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 created labs for combat training, dance, costumes, acting, prosthetics, digital media and new set design options.

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 was "Aquitania," directed by Susan Coromel, a comedy set in a mythical kingdom that is based on the "Legends of Charlemagne."

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

Sustainability brought into focus at Willamette through grants

Willamette recently awarded four students and two professors grants to pursue projects that highlight sustainability efforts and promote the culture surrounding sustainability's core values: equity, environment, economics and education.

The awards of up to $500 were announced Oct. 20, National Sustainability Day.

This year's winners are:

Kevin Lynn '11: Lynn will begin a vermicomposting program — composting using earthworms — for food waste at the Bistro that will eventually be taken to Zena Farm. He also plans to hold a campus-wide workshop on vermicomposting.

Colby Takeda '11: Takeda will add eco-friendly modifications to the Willamette student darkroom and open it to student use for the first time in ten years. He will also host a sustainability-themed photography contest.

Ashley Ross White JD'11: Ross White's project will provide English and Spanish books on sustainability to Woodburn's French Prairie Middle School library in order to integrate sustainability into curriculum at a young age.

Jennifer Johns, visiting professor of biology and associate director of sustainable agricultural programs: Johns plans to sponsor a competition and buy the supplies to paint an educational mural on the side of the Zena Farm barn. The mural will reinforce the message of sustainable farming by illustrating elements of an agro-ecosystem.

Luke Johnson '11 and Heidi Grew, associate professor of art: The team will build a heavy-duty cart for the clay mixer in the art department, allowing for more eco-friendly recycling of the clay.

The application deadline for the next round of sustainability grants is Feb. 12, 2011. Learn more: www.willamette.edu/councils/sustainability/grant_proposals.

Willamette earns grant to continue undergraduate research program

Emilie Jensen '13 earned a College Colloquium Student Research Grant to conduct ecological field research with the guidance of biology Professor Susan Kephart.

Willamette has earned a Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust grant in the amount of $40,000, an award that allows the College Colloquium Student Research Grant program legacy to continue.

Additionally, the award will support 33 faculty development grants at $500 each, which can be used for projects that enhance teaching in the classroom — everything from class attendance at musicals to guest speakers to new textbooks.

College Colloquium is a program for all first-year students that acclimates them to the Willamette academic environment while giving them an in-depth look at a topic of interest. Students can choose from more than 30 topics, and their Colloquium professor also serves as their first academic advisor.

This is the fourth year that the Trust has funded the College Colloquium grant program, which awards up to six grants of $3,500 each to students who want to continue exploring their Colloquium topic through an independent research or creative project.

The projects take place during the summer between their freshman and sophomore year and may be artistic, literary, investigative, interdisciplinary or performative.

Past projects include a documentary film about Rwanda's efforts to recover from genocide, teaching photography to children in South Africa as part of an exploration of art as a political force, investigating weighted pebbling numbers of graphs and theorems concerning them, and many more.

To learn more about student grant opportunities, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards. To read about some of the most recent College Colloquium grant-winners, check out this feature article.

Be sure to check the next issue of The Scene for the story of one student's trajectory following her College Colloquium grant.