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Wayne State's Hilberry Theatre gets a makeover

July 1, 2014

Opened in 1963 as the nation's first graduate repertory company, Wayne State's Hilberry Theatre occupies a repurposed church dating back to 1917, and has far outgrown the space. "[The Hilberry] is a wonderful historic building and it has served us very well, but it's just no longer adequate to support technologically intense theatrical productions," says Matthew Seeger, professor and dean of Wayne State's College of Fine, Performing & Communication Arts. There are other problems too, endemic of buildings this age. The basement has experienced problems with flooding, and sets and costumes have to be transported to a storage building a block away due to lack of space. WSU recently announced plans for what it dubs "the Hilberry Gateway project," a $48.6 million initiative kick-started by a grant from the Kresge Foundation. The final theater complex will combine the existing building with an adjacent 500-seat new theater and attached scenic and costume designing facilities. Seeger emphasizes that the project is only in the fundraising phase, and the university hasn't selected an architecture firm yet. But the university has commissioned conceptual renderings.