Hays State University's theatre program is receiving a facelift, but
don't expect the faculty to be bandaged up. Cosmetic changes are being
made to Felten-Start Theatre, the venue for all FHSU student
Malloy Hall, home
to Felten-Start theatre, was completed in 1965. That fall, Felten-Start
opened for productions with folding chairs as seats and bare floors.
Since then, innumerable performances have provided entertainment for
students and the public alike.
The seats and
carpeting within the theatre were replaced a couple of times over the
years, but the backstage equipment remains from Malloy Hall's infancy,
explained Tomme Williams, instructor of theatre. With little to no extra
space for actors to stand backstage, set pieces are hoisted into the
air to get them out of the way. Outdated and worn down equipment make
this task inconvenient and, possibly, hazardous.
To remedy the
problem, an action-plan funded replacement of the entire rigging system
is underway. New pulleys will be anchored to the floor backstage,
eliminating the friction created by the movements of the current
unsecured pulleys. The ceiling pulleys, which prevent cables from
sagging as workers pull on them, are being replaced along with the rope
brakes that hold the cables in place. Currently, the rope brakes take
special care to ensure they are holding the ropes securely, making
falling set pieces a risk. The battens, or pipes that hold set and
lighting components in the air, are also being replaced.
project is funded through the fundraising efforts of Cathy Van Doren and
Melanie Bannister at the FHSU Foundation, and the Ross and Marianna
Beach Foundation, which matched funds raised by the FHSU Foundation,
said Williams. Funding efforts came together in December 2012 and were
capped the following semester with a $50,000 action plan. By the end of
the spring 2013 semester, it was time to compare bids and estimates from
Inc., Wichita, is the contractor. The company has completed projects
for Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in the past. The Felten-Start
project will likely last right up until the beginning of classes in
August. Three students from the Department of Music and Theatre are
"This will enable
us to fly much heavier scenery but will also enable us to move further
into the future," said Williams. "When we get new electric connector
strips that hang above the stage and heavier light instruments, these
new battens will be able to deal with that. The airline cable and
everything that had been there since '65 was also beginning to show some
wear and tear, so it's just making it a much more safe environment."
after the project's completion will go toward purchasing new lighting
instruments. Like the overhead fly system, the lights are of the 1960s
and replacement parts are difficult to find. Right now, Felten-Start
depends on Beach/Schmidt or rents lighting equipment to enhance the
Changes within the
theatre program are not limited to the structural type. The theatre
concentration recently made a physical move from the Department of
Communication Studies to join music on the west side of Malloy Hall.
This has proven itself beneficial, said Williams.
"Being part of the
music department is a great thing, and the fact that we now have a
performing arts department, and theatre has the support that it does
have from Mr. Benjamin Cline and the rest of the music faculty," she
said. "We are in the position now to grow both enrollment and majors and
interest from students from western Kansas. It's only fitting that we
are getting the backstage remodeled. It's only the start of the rest of
what will happen with lighting and sound."
The move provides a
better fit for the theatre emphasis. Williams said students from other
majors want to continue their involvement in theatre, and new students
are showing interest in the field as well.
project has Williams grateful to donors who contributed to the campaign,
the Beach Foundation for matching the grant, and those who helped with
paperwork in the process.
"I do see more and
more young freshmen coming in from Western Kansas who are really
interested in participating in theatre," she said. "It's more about
theatre now having some sort of consistency, being in the right place in
the music department with other performing arts emphasis and making the
most out of this building."