CPCC’s new theater — part of its student center — is the latest jewel in Charlotte’s crown.
by Page Leggett
When the new Parr Center, including a library and student center, opens near uptown this April, it will be the largest building on any of Central Piedmont Community College’s six campuses.
The 183,000-square-foot center named for long-time benefactors Wilton and Mary Parr is big news for theatergoers because it will also contain a name-still-to-be-announced, 430-seat theater.
While the Parr Center, funded by a 2013 bond package, is geared toward students, it’s also likely to become a community gathering spot, according to Jeff Lowrance, CPCC’s vice president for communications, marketing and public relations.
“The Parr Center, with its Student Success Center, new Hagemeyer Library and new theater, will become the new front door and signature and landmark facility on the central campus,” Lowrance says. “The new theater will complement the facility well, offering an intimate, yet state-of-the-art experience for live arts programming.”
The new ADA-compliant theater replaces the old 400-seat Pease Auditorium, which had been part of Charlotte’s theater landscape since 1972 in the razed Terrell building. The new theater has a gentle, vertical slope and was designed more as a performance and presentation space and less as an auditorium/classroom, Lowrance says. CPCC’s other theater space, the Dale F. Halton Theater, seats 1,022.
A lobby featuring a box office, concession stand and the Pauline Dove Gallery, named for Pauline (Polly) Dove, who helped establish Central Piedmont’s printmaking program and initiated the first student art show, are part of the experience and can be rented as standalone or companion spaces for receptions. A rooftop terrace is also available for rent.
The inaugural event planned in the new theater is The Diary of Anne Frank presented by Central Piedmont Theatre. Show dates and times were still pending at press time.
In late May, Theatre Charlotte takes over the stage with Detroit ’67, a play that takes place against the backdrop of an uprising that shook the Motor City during the turbulent 1960s. After its home base was damaged by fire, the troupe has been on the move, performing at various venues around Charlotte while its Queens Road theater is being restored.
“Having seen the space in its early stages, it is definitely designed for audience comfort,” says Chris Timmons, Theatre Charlotte’s acting executive director. “The seating chart is spacious to maximize distance between rows with plenty of accessible seating and what appear to be great sightlines.”
The new theater at CPCC has something many theaters lack: plentiful and free parking. Current theater parking on 4th Street will be available for theater patrons, Lowrance says. In addition, Pease Lane will be open directly in front of the theater entrance for drop off, and there are plans for a limited number of accessible parking spots there.
There are other features the audience may not notice, but performers will appreciate — a Steinway piano, Marley flooring for dance, front and rear projectors for state-of-the-art scene projection.The Parr Center was designed by Moody Nolan and Morris-Berg Architects, with construction-management services provided by Rodgers Builders. SP