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The Little Theatre

(also known as The Theatre and the Oakland Recital Hall)
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bullet Many of the campus buildings constructed between 1938 and 1942 were ornamented with carved sandstone bas-relief sculptures.  These buildings included the Manual Arts Building, Spindler Hall for Women, Vandercook Hall for Men, and the Little Theatre (corner of Oakland Dr. and Oliver St.).  The Theatre, in addition to a large carving above the main entrance, boasted etched glass panels in the main entrance doors as well as several of the interior doors.  The Theatre was completed in 1942 and renovated in 1996.

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bullet The Theatre was in continuous use from 1942 until 1967 when the Shaw Theatre was completed on West Campus.  The acoustics in the lecture/recital hall were regarded as ideal for recitals and stage productions.  The hall seated about 350 and was regularly scheduled for large lecture classes.  The Theatre also has a generous lobby and ticket office, a large backstage, public restrooms, and a projection booth.  The rehearsal room on the second floor still has the marker boards with fixed staff lines for music education classes.

bullet The public areas of The Theatre were renovated in 1996, with a new seating capacity of 196.  The hall was renamed the Campus Cinema, and is the new home for the University Film Society, as well as being used for meetings and a variety of presentations. The design themes for the renovation were taken from the original building features.  The remodeled stage and proscenium arch repeat details from the front entrance and the bas-relief.  Some of the original etched glass is reused in the interior.  New etchings were designed to complement the originals.  The new interior doors into the Campus Cinema were designed by the WMU School of Art's Design Center.

bullet It is not known who designed any of the original bas-reliefs or etchings.  Through the years many faculty have freely given time and talent in support of the institution, and one of them may have designed these sculptures.  (John Kemper, faculty from 1942 to 1970, is well-known for his graphic designs and murals, but the bas-reliefs pre-date his tenure.)  Lydia Siedschlag, faculty and, later, head of the Art Department, decorated the interiors of all building built from 1936 through the 1950's.  It is assumed that she determined The Theatre's original interior furnishings, but there is no indication that she dealt with exterior facades or architectural details. Classical columns detail repeated in remodeled stagefront

Bas-relief above front entrance Classical columns detail repeated in remodeled stagefront Original name "The Theatre"
Bas-relief above entrance
Design for New Interior Doors
Interior lobby door design
Renovated stage Proscenium arch repeats detail from entrance Column motif reflects column detail on bas-relief
Renovated stage

 

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