A ceremony was held on Tuesday, June 3, to celebrate the beginning of renovations to Mainstage Theatre on Salem State’s North Campus. The project will create a new face for the university’s North Campus and transform the existing space into the Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts. The 470-seat center will provide a contemporary theater facility for faculty and student performances and for the use of the regional community. In addition, the 32,727- foot renovated space will also offer informal social and gathering spaces for the Salem State community.
Among those delivering remarks at the ceremony was professor William Cunningham, chair of theatre and speech communication. Following are excerpts of his speech:
“I am here today to say thank you on behalf of theatre and speech communication, its faculty, its staff, and its students…particularly its students, the reason we are all here. It’s time to transform this old facility into a state- of- the- art performing arts center and to create a space that puts the arts at the center of the lives of our students, knowing that the arts have the power to transform them socially, politically and morally. The arts celebrate the power of the human spirit. It is the celebration of that spirit that happens when people come together in communion to celebrate our shared humanity and the possibility and the hope we find in creativity.
‘I mentioned that we are an award-winning department. We have been fortunate enough to send a student to the stage of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC for eight years in a row. This year we sent five people to Washington: an actor, a director, a stage manager, a dramaturg, and a playwright. Washington is a city full of monuments: The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Monument, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. The Kennedy Center is also a monument, but we don’t usually think of it in those terms. Maybe because all of the others commemorate the past. But the Kennedy Center is a celebration of life. Art happens in the moment. It is alive. In the same way, the Sophia Gordon Center for the Creative and Performing Arts will be alive with theatre and dance.
“On the wall of the Kennedy Center is this quote from JFK, who was reflecting on the legacy of the Greek culture. He said, ‘I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.’
“The human spirit is creative, and it is creativity that leads to innovation. We are building more than just a performing arts center. We are building the largest classroom on campus, a classroom that teaches us to dream. Because if we can dream it, we can do it.
“Thank you to Dr. and Mrs. Gordon for their generosity of spirit, as well as many others for making the dream of the Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts a reality.”
Renovations are expected to be completed in early 2016.