USI breaks ground for state-of-the-art Teaching Theatre on Tuesday


The University of Southern Indiana will break ground for its highly-anticipated $16.7 million Teaching Theatre at 4 p.m. Tuesday, August 14.

A brief groundbreaking ceremony will include a performance by USI alumni (and spouses) Kensington Blaylock Eck ’08 and Brandon Eck ’10, followed by remarks from Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett, president, Ted C. Ziemer Jr., chair of the USI Board of Trustees, and Elliot Wasserman, chair of Performing Arts and director of Theatre. The ceremony will be held at the future site of the theatre, next to University Center East on University Boulevard.

After the ceremony, a reception will be held in the newly renovated Loft on the second level of University Center West. USI alumni and friends are welcome to attend.

The Teaching Theatre will be constructed using locally-sourced and recycled materials such as those utilized in the construction of University Center East – clay pipe from Can Clay Corporation of Cannelton, chair legs from Jasper Chair Company, and Bedford limestone. In addition, the theatre will include a sound baffle system with acoustic panels created with Toyota Sienna dashboards donated by Princeton-based Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Inc.

The Teaching Theatre’s red sandstone exterior is an homage to the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle. Built in 1855, it is the oldest building on the National Mall. Congressman Robert Dale Owen (son of Robert Owen, founder of the second utopian experiment at New Harmony) was chair of the Smithsonian Building Committee. His brother, geologist David Dale Owen, recommended it be built from red sandstone. Both Owens resided in New Harmony for a time, and USI is one of the sponsors of Historic New Harmony, an initiative to create and retain interest in the history and current life of the village.

Like UC East, the Teaching Theatre was designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York. It will have a thrust stage with additional staging areas incorporated into the walls, a shallow proscenium to allow for greater sightlines, exceptional natural acoustics, and state-of-the-art light and sound technology.

“We will become the premiere theatre program in the state and region,” Wasserman said. “We already have the programs and now we’ll have the facilities to match.”

View a virtual tour of the new Teaching Theatre.

The general contractor is Empire Construction, mechanical contractor Deig Brothers Construction, and electrical contractor Alva Electric with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering by Hafer Associates. Estimates are that more than 100 construction jobs will result from the two-year project.

The Teaching Theatre is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2014. Plans are also in the works for a theatre support building with costume and set shops.

The last USI groundbreaking was for University Center East in spring 2009.