CRYSTAL LAKE – Shows in high school auditoriums and practices in trailers will be a thing of the past for students in the McHenry County College theatre program.
The new Black Box Theatre will hold its first show Thursday and receive an official ribbon cutting ceremony Sunday to kick off the three-week run of the musical production Cabaret. The opening ends an exile for the program that started in the summer when the college decided to turn the former Black Box Theatre into manufacturing space with a $500,000 grant to help with the conversion.
During the time away from the college, Jay Geller, head of the theatre department, said the group would practice in trailer space and performed at Woodstock North High School. He said the temporary sacrifice was well worth the improvements in space, lighting and technology the new theatre features.
"The students are excited and I'm sure the community is going to be excited when they see it," Geller said. "I'm not used to getting all these new things. We're just grateful for the opportunity."
The new $2.2 million space came as an expansion to Building E and will be paid for with tuition in the first five years of operation and the additional revenue the three new classrooms it holds will help generate.
Geller said one of the best features of the new theatre is its versatility. While the production of Cabaret features 18 cast members, a full band and crew, Geller said the space could easily be transformed to host an intimate show with only a few performers.
Brock Fisher, executive dean of humanities and social sciences, said he has been impressed with the program in his short time with the college after coming from Ball State University in January.
The theatre is the ideal size, he said, and should create a better experience for the audience and performers.
"In a big four-year university they may have one or two full-size theatres," Fisher said. "I think for us and for the audience size that we have this is the ideal space. I think anywhere from 100 to 125 people depending on the show is perfect for our size."
Sunday's ribbon cutting ceremony will feature a reception with light refreshments in the theatre lobby from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. followed by a full performance of Cabaret at 2 p.m.
The show will run every Thursday through Saturday starting this week and ending on March 22. All shows start at 7 p.m. with the exception of a 2 p.m. show on March 16. Tickets are $10 for students, faculty, seniors and alumni and $15 for the general public.
Call 815-455-8746 for more information.