By: Jill Fier, The Brookings Register

South Dakota State University students were busy moving into residence halls a few weekends ago, but faculty, staff and students are still a semester away from moving into a highly anticipated building project on campus.

The $50 million Performing Arts Center expansion is taking shape, but a big move-in isn’t planned until the break between the fall and spring semesters later this year.

The project is adding 100,000 square feet of space to the 60,000-square-foot facility. It’ll be the home of the SDSU School of Performing Arts and bring dance, theatre and music students all under one roof.

“We’re on time and under budget, which is really exciting for all of us,” said David Reynolds, director of the School of Performing Arts.

The PAC is already home to a 1,000-seat concert hall and a 180-seat black box theatre. It has continued regular operations during construction, with staff already in the PAC shifting as work progresses. In a few months, music and dance staff in Lincoln and Pugsley halls will join the theatre crew.

The addition includes a 225-seat recital hall with a more than 3,000-pipe organ and an 850-seat proscenium theatre, a professional dance studio, ensemble space for instrumental and vocal rehearsal and instruction, practice modules, plus faculty teaching studios, offices and classrooms.

South Dakota materials are featured throughout the facility, including granite from Milbank and pine from West River.  The university is working with Architecture Inc. out of Sioux Falls on the project, plus architect Malcolm Holzman of New York, who designed Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

The facility has been designed with sound blocks between performance areas, “so you won’t be interrupted when you’re listening to the music,” Reynolds said.

While the concert hall hasn’t seen many changes, a couple of additions should please event-goers.

“With our new construction, we’re able to add two additional exits to the concert hall, so we’ll be able to empty the hall out in a lot better time.”

Nearby, the recital hall was intentionally designed for more intimate performances.

“So, if say a faculty member performs a voice and piano recital. You don’t want to put that on a stage for 300 people,” Reynolds explained.

Large windows throughout the facility let people see what’s happening in spaces as they walk by, and even interior rooms will get daylight.

The proscenium theatre includes six trap doors and an orchestra pit with room for 28.

“The difference between a concert hall and a proscenium theatre has to do with what’s around the stage,” Reynolds explained. “In a concert hall, we want the music to go directly into the ears of the listeners. In (a proscenium theatre), we want to control everything and hide things. It’s all about illusion. That’s why there’s this rather small opening compared to the size of the stage, compared to the concert hall, where everything on the stage is seen by the audience.”

While it’s still a work in progress, there’s already plenty excitement about the expansion.

“Once completed, the Peforming Arts Center expansion project will offer marvelous opportunities for students involved with State University Theatre and Prairie Repertory Theatre,” said J.D. Ackman, SDSU’s coordinator of theatre.

“SDSU’s academic programs in theatre and dance are most certainly poised to make great strides in training and educating our students with some of the finest facilities in the region. Our class, lab and production work will be enhanced and informed by the new performance and production spaces. This project will have positive impacts for SDSU students and the people of Brookings for generations to come.”

Reynolds agreed.

“This building is a game-changer for the university, for the region,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to find another facility many miles in any direction that has a recital, a concert hall, a black box theater, a proscenium theater and a dance space all within steps of each other.

“We think this is going to mean great things for the university in terms of recruitment of both majors and non-majors, to all of the degree programs represented in the school,” Reynolds said.

Contact Jill Fier at jfier@brookingsregister.com.

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