WPI's New Little Theatre Opening Earns Ovation

Susan Vick, Professor & Director of Theatre, Instrumental in Creating New York-Style Venue

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5609

WORCESTER, Mass., November 29, 2005 -- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has a new performance venue in its Little Theatre, which opened in November with two world-premiere plays. Made possible with a gift from the George I. Alden Trust, the intimate, 99-seat theatre will serve as a dedicated home for the university's division of drama/theatre and further strengthen the role of the humanities and arts at the nation's leading technological university.

For nearly a decade, WPI has offered a drama/theatre major area of concentration in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Graduates have gone on to pursue careers as theatre technologists, lighting and audio designers, playwrights, and actors. "So many talented engineering and science majors at WPI are attracted to our excellent theatre programs," WPI President Dennis D. Berkey commented at the opening. "Although an art form, theatre involves many of the features of successful engineering practice-good and creative design, organization, collaboration, discipline, engagement with real materials, execution, critical evaluation, and continuous learning and feedback."

The prime mover behind the renovation was Professor Susan Vick, Director of Theatre. Upon returning from a WPI performance in the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Original Short Play Festival last year in Manhattan, Vick was inspired to find an intimate space for productions on campus similar to those in the Big Apple. Previously, most on-campus drama/theatre productions were performed in the large open space of Alden Memorial, where an actor's voice could get lost, the audience was seated in makeshift chairs and bleachers, and scheduling was difficult. Vick found the space in Sanford Riley Hall – 1,600 square feet that formerly housed a campus pub and pizza shop – helped write the successful proposal to the Alden Trust to fund the renovation, and oversaw its year-long transformation into a fully functioning theatre, complete with handicapped access, lighting grid, movable seating, and a green room/dressing room.

Theatre has a rich and vibrant history at WPI, dating back to the first performances in the 1890s. Today, every undergraduate must complete a project in a discipline in the arts or humanities. WPI's annual New Voices festival is one of country's longest continuously run university new play festivals, and Masque stages two productions every year. In addition to Masque, cast and crew members also participate in two annual productions of the M.W. Repertory Theatre Company, a local unaffiliated theatre troupe started by WPI students in 1988.

The inaugural production at the Little Theatre, entitled New Works for a New Theatre, featured two plays specifically written for the theatre's unveiling. In Bad Taste by Dean O'Donnell '86 explores censorship in the comic book industry in the 1950s, and Prime Time Crime: Teal Version by Catherine Darensbourg '02 examines censorship of books and television in the future.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865 in Worcester, Mass., WPI was one of the nation's first engineering and technological universities. Its 18 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to the B.S., M.S., M.E., MBA and Ph.D. WPI's world-class faculty work with students in a number of cutting-edge research areas, leading to breakthroughs and innovations in such fields as biotechnology, fuel cells, information security, and nanotechnology. Students also have the opportunity to make a difference in communities and organizations around the world through the university's innovative Global Perspectives program, at more than 20 project centers located throughout North America and Central America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe. On its 80-acre campus in New England's third-largest city, in dozens of research centers and institutes, on satellite campuses, and via distance learning, students engage in a learning experience that seamlessly integrates theory and practice.