The Theatre Arts Department has been a staple of the liberal arts curriculum on campus for nearly a century. Part of that curriculum is the Furman University Theatre main stage season that entertains, educates, and engages thousands of students and patrons each year. We have celebrated more than 50 years of top-quality pedagogy, programming, and performances in our “temporary” home, The Playhouse.
Furman Theatre majors have made great progress as artists and people after college. Lawyers, costume designers, police officers, actors, entrepreneurs, professors, and more have emerged from these tin walls, and this building has been the launching pad for those careers. But, it was built to be temporary, and the time to invest in the future is here.
The Furman University Playhouse is situated on campus between North Village and McAlister Auditorium.
The lobby area houses three faculty/staff offices, a Box Office counter, and two accessible restrooms.
The Main Stage performance space
has 110 seats, a teaching station, a small booth with lighting and
sound stations that require a step up to access, a state of the art
lighting rig with low hanging position, and two cramped wing spaces. The
green room, directly behind the Main Stage, has three faculty/staff
offices, a plotter printer, and color copier.
Immediately behind is the Scene Shop, which has a lighting nook, paint station and sink, and several work spaces for carpentry. The Costume Shop
and Dressing Rooms share an attached space where there are 4 large
cutting tables, two sewing machine tables, an ironing station, a crafts
station, two small restrooms, a laundry area, two 4- and 8-person
dressing rooms, and two walls of storage shelving and cabinets.
The newly renovated Studio Theatre
portion of the building (due to a tree falling on the structure in
December 2018) has dance studio floor with mirrored walls, a small booth
with lighting and sound capabilities, a Student Lounge, shelved storage
space, and two faculty/staff offices. In a separate building next door,
the Design Annex houses a computer lab, two additional accessible
restrooms, Costume Storage, and Scenic & Properties Storage.
Renovations and additions are needed
Additions and expansions will improve the quality of the student, faculty, staff, and patron experiences:
ADA compliant restroom facility for backstage access
Currently, students with accessibility needs who are involved in productions have no access to an ADA compliant restroom during performances. The same is true for students who take classes in the Scene Shop, Costume Shop, or Studio Theatre.
Lobby Renovation and Expansion
There is nowhere to hold pre- or post-show receptions in the building, and long lines cause congestion at the Box Office and Cultural Life Program (CLP) table due to the small lobby and Box Office space.
Additional Lecture Classroom
The Main Stage performance space doubles as the primary teaching space for Lecture classes like the popular Introduction to Theatre class that is a core education requirement. This requires designers to accommodate access to a teaching station, projector, and projection screen in all theatrical designs. A separate classroom would change that.
New insulation and drywall for the entirety of the building to assist with climate control
Expanded dressing rooms and a wet room
The current dressing rooms are maxed out at 12 students because they share space with a dye sink and washers and dryers. The addition of a wet room for laundry facilities and dying would allow for more space in the dressing rooms, as well as a curricular addition in the way of teaching students how to dye and distress fabric properly.
Expanded scene shop space
Stagecraft courses are regularly full to capacity and students do not currently have the space to work on projects all together indoors, which regularly requires the instructor to work both indoors and outdoors during construction lessons. Additional space would also allow the department to keep more lumber and supplies on hand for sustainable building practices.
Exterior building renovation to more align with campus design standards
Digital marquee and lobby sign
Patrons have a difficult time finding our building, and this advancement would help to more prominently advertise upcoming events and opportunities for students and audience members.
Reconfigured or expanded seating and performance space in the Main Stage
The current Main Stage facility seats 110 patrons for each performance, which is an acceptable number of people seeing a show in an intimate setting, but the tiered seating (connected to exterior side exits) results in no wheelchair-accessible seating except in the back underneath the booths. Additionally, hanging positions for lighting instruments are difficult due to the low ceiling height. With a higher ceiling and expanded seating area, it becomes possible to add cutting-edge technological approaches—such as projection design—to the curriculum. More backstage wing space would increase the ability to produce work with more significant scenic requirements, as well.
Additional office space
With more full-time faculty and increased curricular offerings, many of the current offices in the building are at capacity with multiple occupants.
Two buildings, one department
is actually two temporary facilities side by side, neither of which
adhere to the design standards of the rest of Furman’s beautiful campus.
The Design Annex houses a computer lab, restrooms, and storage space
for set, props, and costume pieces. When moving large scenic pieces, it
is still necessary to use a truck because the loading dock of the
performance space is on the opposite side of the loading doors for the
Possibilities of Tomorrow
The future Furman University Playhouse will remain in its current
location on campus between North Village and McAlister Auditorium.
The renovation plan has been designed by Craig Gaulden Davis
in collaboration with Furman’s Facilities Services team. With
inspirations from Ryman Auditorium, Tanglewood Linde Center for Music
and Learning, and Furman’s existing beauty, The Playhouse renovation
would create an elegant and functional teaching and performance space.
There is an option to commence renovation of The Playhouse in four
phases or all at once - which would save a considerable amount of money.
Lobby Expansion, Office Suite, Expanded Dressing Rooms, and Center Corridor
first phase of the renovation addresses immediate accessibility issues
for students and patrons. This phase of the renovation creates an
expanded lobby with a stand-alone box office to provide easier egress
into the building and the existing Main Stage Theatre. An office suite
of 4 offices and a storage space would be added on to the building while
also creating the beginnings of an internal corridor from the front of
the building to the back.
This initial renovation also expands the
Booth for the Main Stage with ADA accessibility to the lighting and
sound boards. There is an expanded Greenroom/Backstage entrance space.
The Dressing Rooms are expanded with private ADA accessible bathrooms,
as well as a Wet Room for dyeing and laundry. Additional office space is
created in the back of the building.
Expanded Lobby, Box Office, and Kitchen
second phase of the renovation plan enhances the audience experience.
The expansion of the lobby continues to provide study areas for students
while also addressing egress issues from the parking lot to the seating
area. The box office is rebuilt in the additional lobby space in order
to provide access for patrons from outside the building, as well as the
usual indoor will call area. Additionally, a kitchen is added to create
opportunities for hosting receptions, student gatherings, and show food
preparation. Not to mention, the building gets a facelift.
Transforming the teaching, learning, and performance spaces
phase of the renovation is the most dramatic in terms of look, access,
and capabilities of serving our student artists, our classroom
experience, and our audience experience. A new theatre space is added to
the existing structure with flexible seating for up to 130 patrons, a
new accessible tech gallery, a backstage corridor with covered entrances
from the dressing rooms all the way to the theatre, as well as a
catwalk, grid, and storage. The roof height is such that hanging
positions for lighting will be much improved, and the space is flexible
enough to teach the latest technologies with sound and projection
The existing theatre space is transformed into a green
room and student lounge, a classroom space, tool room, and storage
space. Additional bathrooms are created for the lobby and an additional
backstage dressing room is built. The internal corridor from the front
entrance of the building to the back is completed. Students and patrons
with accessibility needs will have complete access to the entire
Outdoor classroom and making the two spaces whole
final phase of the renovation ties our two buildings together with a
captivating outdoor learning space. With a covered walkway from The
Playhouse to the Annex, our two temporary spaces become connected with
permanence. Between the two buildings an outdoor amphitheater is created
where classes can meet, performances can happen, and students can enjoy
the beauty of the upstate. Additionally, the front entrance to the
Annex becomes ADA accessible.
Campaign for the Future
Wouldn't you like to "come home" to a renovated Playhouse?
Theatre Arts is seeking $6 to 10 million in support of renovations and
the possible expansion of the current Playhouse theatre facility. Home
to Furman's Main Stage and most Theatre & Dance classes, The
Playhouse is the hub of the Theatre Arts Department at Furman. Despite
remaining relatively unchanged for decades, it has supported hundreds of
Theatre Arts majors through Furman, and countless other students who
participate on stage, behind-the-scenes, and in the audience.
are seeking donors to catalyze this project with a substantial gift, and
if you might be that person, please reach out to Maegan McNerney Azar,
Department Chair and Shon Herrick, Associate Vice President for
Development. Maegan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (864) 294-2127. Shon can be reached at email@example.com or at (864) 294-3436. Naming opportunities are available.
Donations of any amount are always welcome to our Theatre Department Building Fund
started by John T. Poole and Sarah Joan Moyer-Poole. Gifts of all
amounts are appreciated and needed for this project. The project will
commence once we have received leadership commitments enabling the
transformation of our space.