November 30, 2012
Plans underway for Lauritsen Technical Theatre and Design Studio
Set building in Hayes Auditorium

Lees-McRae College razed the dilapidated Center Theatre building in July to make room for the new Lauritsen Technical Theatre and Design Studio. Thanks to a generous commitment from the Lauritsen family and several other friends of the College, the performing arts department will soon have a new facility for set building and technical theatre work.

Set building in Hayes Auditorium

"How many college majors teach not only professional skills but life skills? Performing Arts majors at Lees-McRae learn how to sew, hang lights, work with electricity, and build scenery in addition to learning theatre history, arts business, directing, acting, singing and dance," said Dr. Janet Speer, Virginia McKenzie Reeves Endowed Chair of Performing Arts. "The scene shop is basically a classroom for all of our students who require several technical classes in their curriculum."

For many years, audiences have enjoyed the incredible scene work that goes along with academic theatrical performances as well as Summer Theatre shows. The scenes are oftentimes built by current students and serve as a classroom for those who wish to further develop their technical theatre skills. Because of spacing issues, scenes have been built on the Hayes Auditorium stage,

"If it weren't for our many generous donors, particularly Jim and Kay Laurtisen, Ed and Kay Hood, and Glenn and Carol Arthur, this building wouldn't happen," Speer said.

"Currently our shop is approximately 10 feet by 30 feet, which doesn't allow for large scale equipment or storage," said Danielle Baisden Curtis, assistant professor of performing arts. "In the new Lauritsen Scene Shop and Design Studio, students who want to be theatre technicians, carpenters, props masters, scenic artists, etc. will have the space they need to use many industry standard tools like table saws, drill presses and band saws."

The new Lauritsen Technical Theatre and Design Studio will be nearly seven times larger than the current space with a garage door and loading dock, adequate storage for combustibles, a paint sink, and emergency eye wash area and other amenities providing appropriate and safe workspace.

"The basic elements in set design for the theatre are platforms and flats placed in interesting arrangements that are decorated to fit the show for which it was designed," explained Curtis. "There is a lot of work that goes in to creating detail on the sets to make the space feel real. With the new facility, we will be able to function as most theatres do with a stock set of platforms and flats so that students do not have to build the same type of set pieces for each show, but can learn advanced skills that produce better designs and better theatre technicians."

The new Lauritsen Technical Theatre and Design Studio will also ensure that the performing arts program retains its accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST), a prestigious accrediting association with fewer than 200 institutions nationwide holding the title. NAST has insisted that in order to retain accreditation, the College make plans in short order to build a new scene shop.

"It is unusual for a small college like Lees-McRae to be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, but we are and we want to continue that accreditation. Our only 'hold-up' to continue that accreditation has been the scene shop. With this building, we will be in an excellent position to carry that prestigious title," said Speer.

Plans for the building are being finalized, and construction could begin this spring. Fundraising to outfit the new facility is still underway. For information on how to contribute to this project, contact Caroline Hart at or call (828) 898-8777.

Lees-McRae College offers academic programs in Performing Arts Studies, Musical Theatre (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and Theatre Arts Education. Performance-based scholarships are available with amounts ranging from $1500 to $5000 annually. For more information, visit

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