Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College recently announced that they are doubling the number of performance offerings, enabled by the support and participation of the greater Columbia community. The expansion and diversification of offerings is especially impressive as the 2015-2016 is just the Theatre’s fourth season.
Designed by Watson Tate Savory and completed in 2010, the 125,000-square foot building consists of a 400-person theater, five multimedia classrooms, and faculty offices. Support spaces for the theater include group and private dressing rooms, a costume design studio and a two-story scene shop. The building was the first significant new construction on the Midlands Technical College Harbison campus since it first opened its doors to students in September 1980. The Theatre supports both college and community use, hosting productions by local organizations as well as campus groups.
One of the most technologically advanced performing arts venues in the Midlands, Harbison Theatre offers a full season of events and performances that are open to the public. The venue hosts national tours of dance, music, theatre, comedy, variety acts and scholars. Rooted in the performing arts, Harbison Theatre offers programs and productions that encourage reflection, examination and discovery; and that provide entertainment, education and opportunity to professionals, learners and community members in all stages of life.
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We spoke with Katie Fox, Harbison Theatre’s executive director, who shared what she thinks helps to make the Theatre a successful venue.
“We hear people say, ‘we’re happy to have this near where we live.’ The shows are great and easy to experience,” Fox began. “The glass entryway is very open and welcoming, which makes a good impression, and guests love having parking right in front of the building. That aspect is unique – you won’t find such convenient parking at other venues in the area.
“The performers we bring in comment on the modern design of the theatre. Because of the steep, staggered seating, there isn’t a bad or disrupted view in the house. The modified thrust stage is a big deal and allows for greater intimacy between the performers and the audience, which helps further enhance their experience at the theatre.
“The audience has been receptive to our informality. It’s approachable and not intimidating to come here to the Theatre,” Fox said. “The space is meant to feel open, and we go out of our way to embody friendliness and openness – and people notice. The college is focused on connecting well-prepared people with satisfying careers available in the Midlands, but we understand that people want to live in communities where they can be involved in interesting things. The theatre shows our commitment to building and supporting that sort of community.
“More and more, people are walking in knowing exactly where they’re going because they’ve been here before. Your neighbors are welcoming you in to a really neat experience together,” Fox added.
“We’re able to be bigger this year because good things are happening. We have new shows that are broadening our reach and everyone can find something here that they’re interested in,” Fox continued. “My favorite physical feature of the theatre is the skynet, the walking platform under the lights. Up there, the theatre still feels magical and special, even to those of us who work here and see ‘behind the scenes.’ You can sit and think about how lucky we are to be here and create such special moments for the people who come here.”
“We’re delighted to see what a great success Katie and her team have made of the Theatre and we’re pleased to have been a part of such a meaningful project for our community and Midlands Technical College,” said WTS Senior Associate Gene Bell, who served as the Project Manager.
The Theatre’s full season includes 25 events, including three “Behind the Scenes” learning opportunities. Ticket packages and flex passes for the 2015-2016 season are now available, and tickets for individual shows are available starting Wednesday, July 1. Visit www.harbisontheatre.org to view the season’s offerings and information on purchasing tickets.