The Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Drama Center will bring together the faculty offices and academic spaces of the departments of Theatre & Drama and Musical Theatre, and provide spaces specifically designed for teaching and learning the dramatic arts.
The building, sited strategically at the entrance to North Campus, will be a three-level structure of masonry, glass, and metal. Architect Thomas Payne of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg (KPMB) describes it as “a stately glass cube by day and a luminous beacon by night” that welcomes visitors to North Campus.
Among other features, the Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Drama Center will include:
- A learning loft to house drama and musical theater components, including rehearsal rooms, studios and classrooms. Room proportions will give students rehearsal spaces that have the same dimensions as current campus performance venues.
- The Arthur Miller Theatre, which will offer flexible performance space for students.
The facility will total 97,500 gross square feet, with an estimated 55,000 net square feet of program space. The cost is about $42.8 million, with funding provided from gifts and investment proceeds. To date, more than $15 million in private support has been received, including $10 million from Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. and his wife, Jean.
The theatre is a lovely idea. I've resisted proposals from others but it seems right from Ann Arbor.
—Arthur Miller, fall 1997
Plans for the new 250-seat Arthur Miller Theatre were approved in March by the U-M Board of Regents. The theater is being designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg (KPMB) Architects, a Canadian firm that specializes in performing arts venues, including the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and renovation of Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.
“The Arthur Miller Theatre will pay tribute to an extraordinary man and a loyal alumnus whose legacy strikes a special chord among U-M theater students,” said President Mary Sue Coleman. “The theater, and the Walgreen Drama Center in which it will reside, will add immeasurably to our ability to educate the actors, directors, and theater professionals of the future.”
Miller, who died Feb. 10, reviewed the plans last year with former Music School Dean Karen Wolff. “Arthur was most concerned about flexibility of the space and how our theater students would be able to try out different stagings,” Wolff recalled.
The design is inspired by courtyard theater. Flexible seating and two stage options, end or thrust, will allow a configuration best suited for a given production. A shallow balcony will wrap around the sides and rear of the hall to create a design that provides an intimate theater experience.
“This extraordinary theater will inspire countless School of Music students as they hone their skills, just as Arthur Miller did as a young playwright while a student at the University of Michigan,” School of Music Dean Christopher Kendall said. “It’s a fitting acknowledgment for one of the University’s most prominent alumni.”