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Sue Bush
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Williams College Arts Center Plans Major Events for October Opening

12:00AM / Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Williamstown– Williams College, one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges, announced the inaugural season, beginning in October 2005, for its new $50 million performing arts complex, the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance. The facility will provide teaching, performance and technical spaces for the College's theatre department and dance program.

It will also host the CenterSeries, a program of performances and collaborative interdisciplinary residencies by renowned visiting artists, including poet Billy Collins, composers Philip Glass and William Finn, the Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa, the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and Dancers & Musicians from the New York City Ballet. The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance also will be home to the Williamstown Theatre Festival, one of the country's top regional theatre companies, which will present its 2005 summer season at the complex.

Designed by William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., Boston, MA, the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance will feature three intimate theatres and a dance rehearsal studio, as well as a dramatic and welcoming glass entrance lobby. Mr. Herbert A. Allen, as lead donor, asked that the Center be named in honor of his classmates, the Williams College Class of 1962. Williams College will inaugurate the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance with a performing arts celebration that runs from September 30 to October 9, featuring 10 days of theatre, dance, readings and musical performances by visiting artists, Williams College students and alumni.

"Williams College has a legacy of excellence in undergraduate education and supporting the arts," says Williams College President Morton Owen Schapiro. "The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance, a world-class facility, will showcase this commitment and become an innovative part of the intellectual life of the College and the region."

Inaugural Season Highlights

The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance will host an ambitious series of performances during the inaugural year. Visiting artists in the CenterSeries program will be invited to participate in residencies at the College, interacting and collaborating with students to create interdisciplinary academic explorations of theatre, dance or musical works.

The fall season will open with "Tall Horse," a theatrical work combining traditional African puppetry, storytelling, experimental video and music. The Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa will be in residence at the '62 Center from September 24 to October 2, 2005, participating in workshops and rehearsals with students and faculty to highlight the geopolitical issues of the work in curricular contexts.

A new musical piece by Broadway composer and lyricist William Finn (Williams College Class of 1974), inspired by William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience and Finn's college experience, will be unveiled in October.

In January, the '62 Center will house "Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty," a puppet rock-opera written and performed by members of Sonic Youth and Japanther about a young rock singer elected as President of the United States.

The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, in residence from February 6 to 10, 2006, will perform a new, multimedia piece inspired by scientific research. "Ferocious Beauty: Genome" will explore the questions that genetic research raises through a dialogue of multiple voices. The College's Neuroscience, Dance, Visual Art, Religion and Environmental Studies students and faculty will examine how genomics could alter the human condition.

The SITI Company, a highly regarded theater troupe from New York, and the Ronald K. Brown/Evidence Dance Company from Brooklyn will be in residence in February and March 2006. SITI Company will present "Death and the Ploughman," an innovative and avant-garde theatrical production, and will participate in student workshops during their residency. Ron Brown, a choreographer whose work combines the traditions of hip-hop, West African and contemporary modern dance, will be in residence during the College's annual "Stalwart Originality: New Traditions in Black Performance" conference. Brown will collaborate with Williams College students and faculty to create a new work.

Student productions at the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance will include Williams theatre's presentation of Moliere's classic comedy "The Misanthrope," Pieter-Dirk Uys' drama of South African politics "Panorama," and a world premiere directed by guest artist Joanna Settle. Music and dance productions by resident companies of the College dance program: the Williams College Dance Company; Kusika, the African dance, music and storytelling ensemble; The Zambezi Marimba Band; Sankofa, the College's step team; and Inish, the traditional and contemporary Irish dance group.

Architecture and Design

William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc. of Boston, theater designer Theatre Projects Consultants of South Norwalk, Connecticut, and acoustician Acoustic Dimensions of New Rochelle, New York, collaborated to design the 106,000-square-foot '62 Center for Theatre and Dance. Principal architect William Rawn has worked with numerous colleges and universities, as well as designed the acclaimed Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, one of the leading arts venues in the Berkshire region.

The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance features a prominent lobby on Main Street in Williamstown—a dramatic glass cube with a strong overhanging roof and dense wood shutters—that greets visitors with warm materials and natural light. The curving walls of the complex are accentuated by a light limestone façade. One of the more contemporary works of architecture at Williams College, the complex is integrated into the campus design with cross-paths through the building, enabling students to be exposed to the performing arts as they walk through campus.

"Starting with the glass and wood of the front lobby facing Main Street, the building connects the student, the performer, the public and the College in ways that are exciting today and in ways that I hope will emerge unpredictably over time," says architect William Rawn.

The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance will feature three distinct performance venues of varying styles and sizes, designed to meet the College's unique performance and programming plans. The MainStage, a courtyard-style proscenium theatre with 550 seats and two balconies, is large enough to attract world-class artists but retains an intimacy and connection between performers and the audience.

The College has also incorporated into the complex the historic Adams Memorial Theatre. Originally designed by the firm of Cram and Ferguson and built in 1941, the AMT has been renovated into an intimate space with 200 seats and a flexible stage that can be used with either a thrust or traditional front.

The CenterStage, with audience seating for 200, is a flexible flat-floor "Studio Theatre" with an internal stage lift and movable balconies that allows for a variety of performance styles and sets, and is memorable for its giant steel sliding door that opens directly onto the CenterStage lobby.

The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance also features a dance rehearsal studio with three full-length glass walls that provide panoramic views. Measuring 50 by 65 feet, the studio will be used for small dance performances or music recitals. Classrooms and faculty offices, rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, and costume and scene shops complete the complex.

The Center is organized to break down the traditional separation of front-of-house and back-of-house. A passageway that evolves from warm wood and glass in the front lobby to industrial materials like glass, metal and steel at the CenterStage encourages students and visitors to explore the entire building. A monumental staircase leads to the dance studio and a gradual ramp moves down to the rear entrance. Patterns of light from large windows or skylights and views of the campus and Berkshire Hills are found throughout the building.

Arts in the Berkshires

Williams College has long been one of the leading arts presenters in the Berkshire region, and the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance will continue its commitment to arts and culture in the community beyond the College. Most notably, the '62 Center will bring year-round cultural offerings to the Berkshires and enhance the popular summer seasons of prominent performing and visual arts institutions based in the region.

Summer performances in the Berkshires are anchored by Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home; Shakespeare & Company, which will celebrate its 28th season this summer; the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, a leading center for dance; and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The region is also home to three notable museums, the Williams College Museum of Art and the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and MASS MoCA in North Adams.
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