Harvey Hall Overhaul

95-year-old Stout theater gets a deserved remodel

by Dacia Miller

Harvey Hall’s makeover now has a state-of-the-art sound and light system, a computerized fly system for set pieces, and a new green room
Harvey Hall’s makeover now has a state-of-the-art sound and light system, a computerized fly system for set pieces, and a new green room

Stout’s headquarters for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Harvey Hall, is also the home to the Harvey Hall Theatre. Over the past fall and winter the theater and surrounding lobby have undergone a $5.6 million renovation, making any productions for the past year impossible. Now, the Harvey Hall Theatre will celebrate a new era with a grand reopening production of Chicago.

Neat seats.
Neat seats.

Originally known as the Stout Institute Auditorium, the theater opened on May 30, 1916 to musical selections from a chorus of a hundred voices and an address from then President Lorenzo Dow Harvey. Now, 95 years later, the theater has been rewarded for its diligent service to the university and community with a makeover.

Tidbits About Harvey Hall
• Named for Lorenzo Dow Harvey, who devoted his life to education and was state superintendent of public instruction, president of the National Education Association, head of the Stout Manual Training School, and Menomonie’s superintendent. 
• On Feb. 26, 1960, when future President John F. Kennedy spoke in the theater and met with students and administrators. 
• Baroness Maria Von Trapp and eight of her children once graced the stage as well as the Vienna Boys Choir and Helen Keller.
• In 1972, presidential candidate George McGovern was scheduled to speak in the theater, but a bomb scare forced the speech to be moved.

The multi-million dollar project has been more than two years in the making, and Theater Director Paul Calenberg has been involved every step of the way. “It’s every director’s dream to (help) design their own theater,” Calenberg said. And a re-design was badly needed. The theater had gone through partial renovations before, but was never handled by contractors who really knew “theater” architecturally. “There were literally places where walls were crumbling,” he added. This time around only companies with specific knowledge of theater construction worked on the project, and it shows.

The new theater is beautiful with spacious and comfortable seating, warm coloring, and amazing views. Saving what they could for vintage lighting, the house is lit softly, but well. Brand new seating replaces the 70s style color schemes and even features a foldaway desktop for classes. The main drape is a beautiful deep red, in a fabric that is one of a kind. Even changes were made to the overall structure, such as shortening the balcony, which improved the acoustic properties of the space as well as the sight lines from individual seats. “Right now I think that the balcony has the best seats in the house,” Paul remarked. “So please, don’t be afraid of the balcony!”