Foundation grant to help Drury construct new “black box” theater

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Oct. 11, 2016 — A significant grant award will help Drury University’s Theater Program construct a new performance space for student productions.

The program has received a $150,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation to build an all-new “black box” studio theater in O’Bannon Hall, which is part of the Mabee Performing Arts Center. A black box theater is a highly flexible performance space that allows the seating configuration to be changed to meet the needs of the production.

Overhead view of the new Sunderland Black Box Theater. CREDIT: Dr. Robin Schraft

The grant will cover a majority of the cost of converting a former music rehearsal space into a two-story studio theater that will be a significant improvement over the current studio theater space in Springfield Hall. The new space will be called the Sunderland Black Box Theater. It will include features not available in the current space, including better lighting and sound capabilities, adjacent dressing rooms, a permanent control booth on the second floor and easier access for the audience.

It will also be larger, with seating for 60 to 100 people, depending on the configuration, and will be dedicated almost entirely to performance. The current studio theater doubles as a classroom for acting and dance. With the move to the Mabee Center, the program has more classroom space available and the studio won’t have to be used for instructional purposes. Larger productions will continue to be held in the Wilhoit Theater inside the Breech Building.

“We will have more flexibility in the new studio theater space and therefore more room for creativity when staging performances,” says Dr. Robin Schraft, the Theater Program Director who is also designing the theater. “It will open up more opportunities for our students to present their works to the community.”

Drury’s Theater Department moved into the Mabee Center this spring from its former home in Springfield Hall in order to provide synergy with the Music Department. Construction of the Sunderland Black Box Theater will begin later this year and should be complete before the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year.

For more information about Drury Theatre and the 2016-17 season, go to

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