Sunderland Studio Theater gives students a fresh new stage for their work

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Feb. 23, 2018 — Drury theater students have a new space in which to perform and immerse themselves in their craft, thanks to a significant grant award from the Kansas City-based Sunderland Foundation.

Drury received a $150,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation last year 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 an intimate and highly flexible performance space that allows seating configuration to be changed to meet the needs of the production.

This week, the new Sunderland Studio Theater opens to the public for the first time, with a production of “The Fantasticks” taking place this weekend and Wednesday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, March3 next week. Tickets for the show remain; for more information about tickets and the rest of the 2017-18 season, go to

The grant made it possible to convert a former music rehearsal space into a modern, two-story studio theater that is a significant improvement over the former studio theater space in Springfield Hall. It features better lighting and sound capabilities, a permanent control booth on the second floor, and easier access for the audience. It is also larger, with seating for 60 to 100 people, depending on the configuration. Larger productions will continue to be held in the Wilhoit Theater inside Breech Hall.

“It just provides us with a lot of versatility with the shows we’re able to do and the design choices we make,” says Payton Jackson, a junior theater major and stage manager for “The Fantasticks.” “It’s something really cool that not a lot of universities have. I’ve been counting down the days until opening night so we can finally unveil this space.”

The Sunderland Studio Theater was designed by theater professor Dr. Robin Schraft, who passed away after a battle with cancer last fall. Schraft had been a faculty member at Drury for 26 years.                                                                    

“The new studio is a great showcase for our students’ talents and it allows them to gain hands-on experience working in these kinds of flexible performance spaces,” says Dr. Mick Sokol, professor of theater. “We’re grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for the gift; and I think everyone in our department would agree that Dr. Schraft would have been really proud to see what our students are doing with the studio right now.”  

Drury’s Theater Department moved into the Mabee Center last year from its former home in Springfield Hall in order to provide greater connections with the Music Department. The Sunderland Studio Theater is a key aspect of those changes, along with a larger design lab for students and additional prop storage.


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