Saturday, Sept. 9, the College of William and Mary kicks off the Year of The Arts by hosting a soft opening for the new Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. The evening celebration will include the performance of Nine – A Tribute to the Little Rock Nine by the Leah Glenn Dance Theatre, the inaugural production in the newly renovated performing arts building.
The kickoff will begin at 6:00 p.m. with an open house and public tours of the new PBK Memorial Hall. The performance of Nine will be from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the main theater, followed by a Q and A session. After the production, there will be a reception in the PBK atrium. The first 490 members of the public who arrive will gain entrance to the performance, per seating capacity.
Frances L. And Edwin L. Cummings Professor of Dance and Africana Studies at the College, Leah Glenn, is the founder and artistic director of the Leah Glenn Dance Theatre. Student dancers from the College and professional dancers from the company will perform together on stage during the production.
“They’ve been rehearsing all week and Leah tells me it’s just going incredibly well, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Suzanne Raitt said. “It’s just very exciting to be the first people to dance in a new space.”
Raitt noted the months-long preparation required for the production.
“We’ve been working towards this all year,” Raitt said. “A group of William and Mary students took a course in the Spring that was preparing them to get ready for the fall. They were choreographing and trying out different things.”
The soft opening precedes the later official ribbon cutting and building opening, which is scheduled for Thursday Oct. 19, amidst the College’s 2023 Homecoming Weekend.
“For the first time, we’re going to have state of the art facilities that we just haven’t had.”
“For the first time, we’re going to have state of the art facilities that we just haven’t had,” Raitt said. “I’ve been at William and Mary twenty-three years and I’ve seen incredible productions here, but I have not seen incredible buildings in which the productions were put on. We’re really looking to put William and Mary on the map as a regional arts venue. These are academic learning spaces, but also, equally, spaces for creation and experiencing and for outreach.”
According to Raitt, PBK Memorial Hall will be open to public productions, as well as student performances. The College also hopes the new arts infrastructure will encourage non-performing arts major students to experience the world of production.
“Music and theater and dance touch the lives of far more students than those who are in the departments or those who declared dance or theater majors,” Raitt said. “We have hundreds of students who are working on productions, who are creating costumes, who are singing in the choirs.”