Theatre Building to close for summer

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MAY 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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A University of Iowa building hit hard by flooding will close this summer for renovation work.

The Theater Building will close at the end of this week and will not open again until classes start back up in the fall.

“Waters came to within inches of that first floor [of the Theater Building],” said UI Facilities Management strategic communications manager Wendy Moorehead.

Not only was the building hit hard in 2008, but flooding last year encroached on the building as well, because of its proximity to the river.

Some of the changes include better flood protection and different wiring, Moorehead said, and the project will cost roughly $6.5 million. The 2009 UI flood report estimates the total damage to the building was $3.5 million, with an additional $1 million damage to the contents.

“This project will protect the building from future flooding to a level within three feet of the 2008 flood,” Moorehead said. “They’re moving the mechanical and electrical equipment, which are currently in a basement, up to a rooftop penthouse, [and], it [also] includes the installation of a new patio leading from the front doors to the Riverwalk."

Alan MacVey, the head of the Theater Department, said the changes are exciting.

“We’ve been without the basement for almost seven years now, so it’ll be great to have that back,” he said. “The patio out front, I think, is going to be quite beautiful and really an improvement to what we have now.”

The relocation of the electrical equipment is even more impressive, MacVey said.

“All the power and electrical systems and heating is being moved to the roof, where it’s out of harm’s way,” he said. “That is an amazing process, and I have no idea how they’re doing it. That’s really the biggest part of the renovation.”

While the building is closed over the summer, some of the programs normally put on by the Theater Department will have to be altered, theater director Bryon Winn said.

Typically, the department produces two or three shows for Summer Rep. This year for Summer Rep, the department will put on the musical Respect, which will travel to eight cities around the state.

One UI theater arts student said this could be seen as a benefit of the building being closed.

“In one respect, that’s kind of cool, because the performers get to travel,” said UI sophomore Julia-Kaye Rohlf.

Classes will also be cut this summer, MacVey said.

“We aren’t offering any classes this summer,” he said. “Everybody has to get out of the building by Friday.”

The administrative staff of the Theater Department will not be affected by the closure, because the members have already relocated, Winn said. Some of the production staff will stay this summer, but they will relocate to the Studio Arts Building to work on the summer opera.

Rohlf said the summer closure will be worth it to restore the building.

“A lot of parts of the Theater Building got destroyed,” she said. “It’s going to be nice to have it all restored and usable again.”

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