Doors open, curtain rises on revitalized theatre

The stage is set for a new era of music and theatre at Western. The Don Wright Faculty of Music’s newly renovated Talbot Theatre opened its doors Tuesday, showcasing more seating, dynamic acoustics, better lighting, improved sound, and a new name: the Paul Davenport Theatre.

President Paul Davenport gets a tour of the renovated Talbot Theatre from Western grad and Broadway star Louise Pitre.

Named in honour of Davenport’s 15 years of leadership as Western’s president and champion of the arts, the official re-opening and dedication of the 43-year-old theatre which seats about 400 patrons coincided with a farewell event for Davenport.

 

Donors and supporters of the theatre’s $5-million restoration were on hand to celebrate the opening, as well as mark Davenport’s retirement. The university has contributed $2.5 million and another $2.5 million will come from private support.

 

To date, 110 donors have contributed more than $2 million and fundraising efforts will continue until the $2.5-million goal is reached. Fundraising plans also include the creation of an endowed Student Performance Fund valued at $250,000, with a commitment to raise these funds once the theatre renovation is fully funded. 

 

A jam-packed show christened the Paul Davenport Theatre stage.

 

Louise Pitre (BMus’79, DMus’06), an actress who starred in Broadway’s Mamma Mia, became the face of the theatre’s fundraising campaign. She was one of the key performers to take the stage and says she was thrilled to play a role in raising funds for the theatre where she got her start, while also honouring Davenport. 

 

 

“This is where I did my first show ever – except it didn’t look like this,” says Pitre.

 

 

“It all began as a student on the stage of Western’s Talbot Theatre and it changed my life forever.

 

 

“Being involved in this project, has allowed me to reconnect with Western while helping a theatre that means so much to me. And I’m so proud to be here to honour Paul Davenport and thank him for what he has done for Western – he has taken the university to a new level.”

 

Other notable performances included a Western student percussion quartet, a piano performance by Stephan Sylvestre, Sonja Gustafson with a trio, and Theodore Baerg with Mark Payne.

 

Davenport says the theatre is spectacular and he is honoured to be identified with it.

 

“I’ve had so many wonderful experiences in this theatre,” says Davenport. “This space has a lot of memories for me and I’ve experienced them with my wife and children – I’ll never forget them.”

 

Davenport also noted how important Western alumni and volunteers have been in supporting the theatre renovation.

 

 

“This kind of transformation of the theatre is possible only because we had a number of donors who stepped up and said they wanted to help – and I’m very grateful.”

 

Bob Wood, dean of the Don Wright Faculty of Music, says the new theatre will benefit everyone at Western, as well as host community groups who have staged productions in the theatre. “This connection will continue to grow as a result of the better facilities now available.

 

“There are significant changes in the theatre that can be seen by members of the audience and there are very important renovations to the mechanical systems which can’t be seen,” says Wood.

 

“The gap between the acoustic capabilities of the theatre and the growing demands of our music programs has widened at a considerably more rapid rate recently. I am hopeful that the newly renovated theatre with enhanced acoustics and refurbished lighting, sound, and seating will provide our students and faculty with a quality teaching and performing space in which to continue with the various types of performances.”

 

The Don Wright Faculty of Music’s first performances in the theatre will likely take place in early September as part of the Friday Noon series.

  

Theatre renovations Fundraising continues to pay for renovations.

For information about how to support the Paul Davenport Theatre, contact Carole Stinson, Campaign Director, at 519-661-2111 x 85696 or e-mail cstinson@uwo.ca.