FEBRUARY 11, 2004

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The "new" Dorothy Summers Theatre at East Central University reopened Feb. 5 with a celebration of the fine arts featuring theatre, music, art and dance students. The theatre, part of ECU's original building, Science Hall, has been refurbished with "brick dust" walls, carpeting and stage and window curtains; charcoal gray seats; new doors and a new fire detection and sprinkler system.

ECU'S Dorothy Summers Theatre celebrates opening

A celebration of the fine arts, showcasing East Central University's theatre, music, art and dance students, marked the grand reopening of ECU's sophisticated, newly refurbished Dorothy I. Summers Theatre on Feb. 5.

Rich colors and new seating, carpeting, doors and stage curtains have replaced their timeworn counterparts.

"The Dorothy Summers Theatre, or the College Auditorium, as it was named originally, has been a place for students and the Ada community to gather for important events since Science Hall was built 95 years ago," said Dr. Bill Cole, ECU president. "This was a long-awaited project and we are happy to announce the theatre is back in operation. We're thrilled to see how beautiful it is."

The theatre was just old and worn out, said Dr. Delma Hall, chair of the communication department.

"Sometimes you wanted people to be impressed (with the campus) – you love the university so much – but the theatre was not real impressive," she said. "It was old. It needed a facelift very badly."

Now, she said, "It feels like a breath of fresh air. It's so clean and the colors are pleasant."

Taupe walls were replaced with "brick dust," a rich red that is repeated on the front curtain and carpeting along the aisles. New seats are charcoal gray.

A new permanent lobby will feature student or faculty art work. The original oak floor beneath the seats was refinished. Doors have been replaced and an enlarged ticket booth allows two windows to be open to eliminate long lines.

In addition to the new front curtain, black "legs," or curtains along the side, were installed, as well as a new backdrop that can be painted for scenery.

"When anyone touched the old legs," Hall recalled, "they would rip. I would take a needle and thread and try to repair them and the needle would rip them."

The old curtains had dry rot and layers and layers of dust, she added.

"Dorothy Summers would be thrilled," Hall said of the theatre's namesake, who is considered
the principal architect of ECU's theatre program. "She was so thrilled when the university put her name on it. This theatre, this school and the students were her life. She would be so happy that we are able to maintain and use the theatre.

"I've thought a lot about that recently. She'd like the red, too," Hall said with a smile.

Summers was ECU's director of drama for 37 years, retiring in 1983. The theatre was named for her in 1983-84 and she was ECU's Distinguished Alumna and commencement speaker in 1992. She died in 1995.

The renovation was delayed when workers discovered exterior water damage that had to be repaired, and new fire codes caused revisions in original plans. A new sprinkler system was installed and the balcony was reconfigured to include a second doorway for safety.

Renovations of the theatre were financed mainly by Section 13 and state bond funds.

Contact: Jill Frye, 1-580-310-5650