The newest state-of-the-art performing arts theater in Sacramento is also one of the city's more historic buildings.
The new hall dubbed the Performing Arts Center comes by way of an $18.6 million renovation of an art deco-era auditorium at Sacramento City College.
The new theater offers a 620-seat hall married to the latest technology to present and capture music, dance and theater performances.
Included was the renovation of existing classrooms, the 160-seat Art Court Theatre and the 104-seat Little Theatre.
The main theater, built in 1937 in the shadow of the Great Depression with Works Progress Administration funds, had languished for decades in a state of disrepair, said Chris Iwata, dean of the School of Humanities and Fine Arts.
The renovation of the barn-like theater whose lobby boasts a rare and highly regarded fresco by WPA-era artist Ralph Stackpole was long overdue.
"The acoustics were horrible and the stage was not particularly usable it was torn up," Iwata said. "The theater didn't even have a functioning lighting system."
That proved deeply limiting to the aims of Iwata's department, which boasts several thousand students and nearly 80 faculty members.
The college will officially christen the hall Friday with an open house offering a mix of performances.
The opening is poised to energize SCC's arts curriculum.
"The potential is there to teach 21st century theater, music and art classes now," Iwata said. "So much of music and theater and even art today is involved with electronics and digital so being able to do that will be great for our students."
Faculty members including Luther Hanson, who teaches five theater classes at SCC, see a big benefit.
"The last two years we've been working out of temporary rooms and that was very, very crazy," Hanson said. "And before that we were limited just to the black box theater. The only things we could do there were really small things."
Hanson's students will learn about state-of-the-art lighting and recording techniques, and he finally has the opportunity to dream big.
"With the new theater we're going to do our first large musical in the spring a production of "Guys and Dolls," Hanson said.
The new main theater offers a feeling of woodsy intimacy. The stage and its attendant technology, on the other hand, offer a glint of grandeur.
Included in the renovation was the addition of a rising and descending orchestra pit, a lighting grid and a full recording studio component. The promise of stellar acoustics awaits with the theater offering movable panels that can adjust the sound in the hall.
The theater adds a much-needed performance space option for Sacramento-area arts presenters. Few such venues exist in the city, and even fewer are dedicated to the presentation of classical music, opera, theater and ballet.
The hall already has a roster of performers scheduled to appear there such as the Camellia Symphony, which has performed there twice since the building was finished in the spring.
The orchestra is thinking of calling the venue its new home and has booked two more performance dates this concert season. Performers from outside the region are starting to take note, too, like ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, who will perform at the theater Oct. 25.
"I think that it's wonderful to have such a hall, and it sounds like something that can work for our chamber orchestra concerts," said Jane Hill, interim executive director of the Sacramento Philharmonic.
The orchestra has been searching for the right venue to collaborate on small operatic works with the Sacramento Opera, Hill said.
However, unlike Folsom Lake College's Three Stages performing arts complex, the new theaters at SCC were not designed for large-scale booking of traveling acts.
The focus at SCC was always to provide a foundation from which to teach its arts curriculum, said Bob Martinelli, vice president of administrative services.
"We will never be as extensive as what they're doing at Folsom Lake College because they're set up to be an enterprise activity," he said. "But we do want to make sure we accommodate the Sacramento community."