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Arts & Life

Avila University To Get New Performing Arts Center

Courtesy Avila University
A rendering of the new Goppert Performing Arts Center planned for Avila University's campus.

Avila University will get a new performing arts center thanks to a $3.5 million gift from the estate of Vita Goppert, a former Avila board member.

The donation, announced by university officials on Thursday, will allow Avila to build new performance spaces, classrooms and rehearsal areas around the existing Goppert Theatre, which opened in 1974 as a result of a previous gift by Vita and Clarence Goppert.

"That theater has been with us and it’s a wonderful space. What we’re lacking is the training facilities that surround it," said Charlene Gould, dean of Avila's College of Liberal Arts. "We currently have a small scene shop where we can’t build and load in, so we have to actually build scenes on stage. This will allow an expansion of the scene shop, a choir room, rehearsal space."

Courtesy Avila University

A new, 3,000-square-foot black box theater, will also allow smaller and more intimate performances, Gould said.

The additional spaces will serve around 200 students enrolled in Avila's performing arts programs. The university offers a BFA with concentrations in acting, musical theater, design and technology, and directing and producing. Having an actual performing arts center surrounding the Goppert Theatre, Gould said, will provide more opportunities for students as well as relieving congestion because the university's programs have expanded.

"We have several groups, two choirs, two smaller ensembles, acting and tech classes and directing classes," Gould said. "The small spaces that we have really are cramped, and sometimes they’re double booked. This will allow us to spread out."

The expansion also will allow more opportunities for programming with Theatre for Young America, which for several years has been running master classes, co-productions, workshops and summer camps at Avila in addition to its space at Union Station.

It could also increase rentals of the main stage, Gould said.

"We want to be the performing arts center for the south Kansas City area, and I think we’ll be serving that need," she said.

Fundraising is underway for the rest of the project, estimated to cost a total of $8 million.

"We have productions scheduled through the next academic year. We hope to break ground as soon as we conclude our spring musical in 2017," Gould said, with completion of the new facilities in early 2018.

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.

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