LMC makes upgrades to Hanson Theatre, rededicates space to namesake donors
Kristopher Zook stepped onto the Hanson Theatre stage to address those gathered for a rededication ceremony after months-long renovations to both the look and functionality of the space.
As Lake Michigan College's Visual & Performing Arts Chair, he read the requisite list of people to thank and improvements made, but he also took a moment to define what the Hanson Theatre has become to those who use it most.
"It's a place to gather," he said. "It's a place to have classes and hear speeches, workshops, and community events. It's a place to nurture new artists, those of our students with aspirations of careers in the performing arts. For them, this is their laboratory. This is their home away from home. This is their garden. This is their temple. It's also a place for students to build confidence and life skills and make friendships and all of those things you can't measure. So, in that way, it's more than a place. It's part of our story at LMC."
Merlin and Carolyn Hanson, for which the theatre is named, are an integral part of that story. In 1990, the Hansons' leadership and philanthropic support aided in the construction of LMC's Mendel Center. On Nov. 6, 1991, the Hanson Theatre was dedicated in their name. Thirty years later, another gift from the Hansons and the Hanson Family Foundation helped fund more than $600,000 in improvements to the theatre, which is the primary performance space for the college's choral, instrumental, and theatre students.
"For being 30 years old, the theatre really didn't look too bad, but 30 years from now, I will no longer have to worry about it," Carolyn Hanson quipped. "We just feel blessed to be able to do this."
The Mendel Center's intimate Hanson Theatre accommodates up to 234 guests. In addition to being the performance hub for LMC students, the theatre's warm atmosphere attracts up-and-coming musical acts from around the country to take part in the college's annual Living Room Series. Community organizations also use the space for events such as dance recitals, talent showcases, variety shows, and comedy nights.
"The improvements made to the Hanson Theatre will affect the entire community, but for our students, in particular, it will enable them to develop as performing artists and hone their skills toward their future aspirations as our program continues to grow and flourish," Zook said.
In addition to visible changes such as new paint, carpet, seating, and curtains, renovations include upgrades to the electrical and internet infrastructure, new rigging and catwalks, new lighting, and a variety of acoustic and other sound improvements.
"You can see all the cosmetic things – the new carpet, the new chairs – but there are also many things you can't see that will improve the experience when you come to see performances in this space," Zook said. "We made drastic changes to the acoustics in the room, which have made a huge difference already. There are a lot of electrical improvements – computer connectivity, LED lighting, a new lighting console, a new soundboard. … We are just elated."