Students Open Risley Theatre

By Sara Maltz
Cornell Daily Sun
Thursday, 11-21-1974

Cornell welcomes a brand new theatre to campus this weekend as the Risley Theatre, built completely by students in four hard-working weeks, opens with a production of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple."

The concept of transforming the old Risley ballroom into a modern theatre was conceived last spring by Paul Hertzberg '77 and Timothy Holcumb '77.

Hertzberg and Holcumb said Risley residents wanted more opportunities to get involved in theatre productions. Risley residential college is composed of students who share an interest in the performing and creative arts. The new theatre will provide residents with more opportunities to be active in these fields, they said.

The two university theatres, Willard Straight Theatre, and Drummond Studio are very rarely available to groups outside the theatre arts department, and lack necessary versatility and proper facilities, said Hertzberg and Holcumb.

To realize their plans Hertzberg and Holcumb went to the Risley Committee, the administrative body of the Risley Residential College for the Performing and Creative Arts. Each member of Risley pays $25 a year to fund such projects. This amounts to a total of $6,000 dollars a year available for projects.

A referendum was sent to Risley members asking if they were interested in the project. The response was enthusiastic. The Risley committee gave $2,500 dollars to pay for materials and $100 dollars was donated by an alumnus.

Scott Wilson '75, chief engineer of the project, said the 88 seat theatre was designed to be flexible. Hertzberg and George Dickonson '77 applied the concept of the modular theatre to the Risley theatre, designing movable platforms of stepped heights. The platforms can be arranged for use in the conventional manner for for in-the-round use.

According to Holcumb, the theatre design was approbed by the department of Buildings and Properties and by Cornell's Life Safety division.

A curtain is being installed which surrounds the entire theatre so actors can enter from behind the audience on all sides. Remote control lighting and an intercom system for the stage crew has also been installed.

Several Risley residents spent last summer finding a carpet, seats, lumber and a curtain for the theatre in New York City.

The theatre complex includes an adjacent set construction shop, rehearsal space, make-up and costume areas, and a ticket and concession booth.

Because the flexible platforms can be stored, the theatre will continue to be used for the Risley Free Film Series, the Cornell dance program, and theatre arts department classes, programs which have used the Risley ballroom in the past.

The Broadway comedy "The Odd Couple" is directed by Carla Schiller '76 and runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:15 p.m. Tickets cost $2.

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