Boston University unveiled the new Joan and Edgar Booth Theatre and the College of Fine Arts Production Center in a housewarming on Thursday evening. The new theater will replace the old BU Theatre on Huntington Avenue, providing a state-of-the-art space with resources for students interested in fine and performing arts on campus.
The housewarming offered members of the BU community a chance to explore the new building, Lynne Allen, the interim dean of CFA, said. Visitors were given the opportunity to go on self-guided tours of the space, getting a firsthand look at the new design studios, skills classrooms, a paint shop and control booth, in addition to the theater itself. The theater is still undergoing some preparations, but is ready for public viewing after construction was fast-tracked for its opening.
“As the first purpose-built building for the College of Fine Arts, it is a wonderful opportunity to share the state of the art facilities with the BU, Boston, Brookline, and Theatre community,” Allen wrote in an email before the housewarming. “The building is an architectural wonder and we are extremely proud.”
The construction of the theater was funded by alumni donations, a $50 million pledge from BU President Robert Brown and the profits from selling the old theater, Allen said.
Located at 820 Commonwealth Ave., the new theater will offer a more central location for students across campus looking to participate in and enjoy fine arts, Allen said.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for BU students with an interest in theater to be able to attend productions closer to home, in the heart of their own community,” Allen wrote.
Allen said the building was designed by architectural firm Elkus Manfredi Architects, with the intention of having it serve the various needs of students, actors and faculty alike.
“Working with a top-notch architectural firm, Elkus Manfredi, has been a delight as they designed a structure that is elegant, inviting and functional, allowing for great flexibility within the stage area,” Allen wrote.
The theater’s first show, “Rhinoceros,” will debut in February and offer faculty, students and other audience members their first chance to see the theater’s capabilities. Show director Clay Hopper said he has already been planning how to use the new space.
“One of the things we wanted to have the space do is reveal itself as the play progresses,” Hopper said at the housewarming.
The show begins looking like most theater sets: one dimensional and flat, Hopper said.
“As it progresses it becomes … more dimensional, more colors added, it becomes more beautiful,” Hopper said. “That’s the idea that we wanted to do and that we wanted to use to showcase the space.”
Several people who toured the new theater said they found the space to be an impressive venue and are excited to come back to see its shows.
Suofei Lin, a first-year graduate student in the College of Communication, said the housewarming was her first introduction to the theater program at BU.
“I’ve just seen the posters several days ago and I find it kind of fascinating, and actually I’m curious about fine arts and how it is like at BU,” Lin said.
Lynn Eustis, the director of graduate studies in the School of Music, said she was excited to see the building after watching the construction from her office window, and thinks the building is a great upgrade from the old theater.
“Obviously the old space at the BU Theatre, the Huntington, is an old building and it’s a more traditional space, so this is nice to see, that this is such an adaptable space and so state-of-the-art,” Eustis said.
Chantel James, who works at the BU financial aid office, said that while she had not been to the old theater on Huntington Avenue, the new location makes it more convenient for her to see shows.
“I’ve heard [the Huntington Theatre] was nice,” James said, “but I’ve heard that they’ve been waiting for this for a while.”