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Moore Hall and Bush Theater

‚Äčmoore-hall.jpgOpened: 1971
Cost: $5.25 Million

University officials announced plans for the construction of a new speech and dramatic arts building in the mid-1960s. Architectural plans, designed by Roger Allen and Associates of Grand Rapids, were completed by 1967. The new building would be located near Ottawa Court and Franklin Street, on a site occupied by the small headquarters of Campus Security, which relocated to a house on Preston in preparation for construction of the new building.

Designs called for a large L-shaped building. One wing would be four stories and would house classrooms, offices, and the new speech and hearing clinic. The other wing would be a single story collection of offices, shops, educational television and radio departments, and the theatre complex. The two wings were to be connected by a kiva theatre-in-the-round.

The $5.25 million structure was partially financed by a $1 million Federal grant under the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963. The remaining $4.25 million came from state funds. Initial bids for the project were too high, and the lack of adequate funding resulted in a 20% reduction in the planned size of the building and a smaller-than-expected budget for the radio and television operations. The building was originally designed to meet the demands of the campus community for several years into the future, but the cuts in space and operating budgets meant it was near capacity when it opened.

In the end, the Miller-David Company of Kalamazoo was awarded the contract and began construction with a groundbreaking ceremony in March 1969. The construction process met with several challenges besides the budgetary concerns. Color schemes for the new building were the major source of disagreement in the months before the Department of Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts (BCA) moved in. Don McDonald, of McDonald and Associates, wanted shades of brown throughout the building, but the building committee, made up of faculty members of the department, wanted no browns. Jerry Anderson, who was the head of BCA, accused McDonald of having "a hang-up" on brown tones in several letters to Controller Norvall Bovee. The problems were eventually ironed out, but further color problems caused more uproar in December 1970. There was some question of whether the Department Chair's office should be decorated in blue or red, but this, too, was eventually settled.

Also causing problems was the timetable set for the departments to move into the new building. The original plans called for them to move over the Christmas break between fall 1970 and spring 1971 semesters. The faculty complained, the date of relocation was eventually moved to Easter Break during spring 1971. The radio station moved from its former home in Warriner at the end of the spring semester. Classes were first held in the new building on March 29, 1971.

Although the construction of Moore Hall faced significant challenges, the opening of the theatre complex within Moore expanded the University Theatre's capacity and flexibility for the 1971 theatre season and beyond. The complex consisted of four separate theatres of varying size and function. The Platform Theatre, the smallest of the group, was about the size of a small lecture room and was designed with interpretive readings in mind. The Kiva, or the theatre-in-the-round, contained 300 seats, although its opening was delayed because of acoustical problems. The Theatre-On-The-Side, which seats up to 250 people, was designed to allow for the rectangular space to be organized as an arena or a semi-arena, depending on the arrangement of stage and seating.

While the three small theatres increased the production flexibility of the University Theatre, the opening of the Bush Theatre represented the most significant improvement of theatre facilities on campus. The theatre had a capacity of 500 and was constructed in such a way so that seats in the back were elevated above the stage to facilitate easy viewing for all audience members. When it opened, the Bush also featured an Electro Controls Mark IV Microset Lighting Control Board, a computerized magnetic tape switchboard that regulated lighting and stage effects throughout an entire production. Capable of storing up to 2,000 separate light cues in a single performance, the control board in Bush was the only one of its kind in the United States at the time.

picmoore.jpgThe expansion of the University's theatre facilities opened new possibilities for the University Theatre, which made full use of the new theatre space in the inaugural season of 1971. Some of the productions from the opening season of Bush Theatre included Indians (by Arthur Kopit, directed by J. Alan Hammack) and The Lady's Not For Burning (by Christopher Fry, directed by Elbert R. Bowen). Two contemporary operas, one by Gilbert and Sullivan and the other by Leonard Bernstein, were also produced that academic year. 1971 also represented the first season in which season tickets for University Theatre productions were made available.

picbush.jpg Moore Hall was named for the Wilbur Moore (pictured above), Vice President of Academic Affairs from 1959 to 1970. He was part of the CMU faculty for twenty years, serving as the head of the Speech and Drama department from 1939 to 1947, the Director of the Division of Clinical Services from 1947 to 1956, and the Dean of Psychology and Educational Services from 1956-1959. Moore was an expert on stuttering and voice problems who had taught at Colorado, Kent State, and the University of Iowa before joining Central's faculty. He retired in 1970 and died in June of 1988 at the age of 84. Bush Theatre was named for Fred R. Bush (pictured at right), who served as assistant professor of speech and director of dramatics and University Theatre from 1939 until his death in 1964.