SRJC Theatre Arts taps other venues as Burbank Auditorium renovation faces another delay
The $30 million renovation of the Luther Burbank Auditorium at Santa Rosa Junior College, underway for 18 months and originally scheduled for completion in May, has again been met with construction delays, forcing a major reshuffle of the theater season on campus.
By the time the first show in the newly redone 400-seat auditorium, “The Wedding Singer,” opens next April, the public debut of the hall will be almost a year overdue.
The latest postponement is driven by time needed to manufacture, deliver and install new rigging for the ropes, pulleys and counterweights used to raise and lower curtains, scenery and support lighting equipment, said Serafin Fernandez, the college’s interim senior director for capital projects.
Wright Contracting of Santa Rosa, the contractor for the rigging system, notified the college two weeks ago that installation wouldn’t completed until November, instead of September as previously planned.
Until three weeks ago, construction hadn’t progressed to the point that a crew for the system’s manufacturer - Stagecraft of Portland, Oregon - could come to the college to take necessary measurements.
“The rigging system is custom-made for each theater, and especially for this one, because it’s such an old building and there are a lot of unforeseen problems,” said Mark Davis, president of Wright Contracting. “Now the delivery time for the rigging system is 12 weeks. It’s longer than we anticipated, but we’re working with them daily and trying to improve those manufacturing and delivery dates.”
When the project is finished, the 80-year-old building will include the main auditorium and a smaller 200-seat studio theater.
In the meantime, shows scheduled for this fall will go on, but in different locations. Leslie McCauley, chairwoman and artistic director of the junior college’s theater and fashion department, took a philosophical stance on the changes.
“You know how construction goes,” she said. “We always knew that delays were a possibility because performance arts spaces are so complex.”
The college theater department had hoped to open its annual musical, “Sound of Music,” in the newly redone hall in November, but now plans to stage that show in October at Sonoma State University’s Evert B. Person Theatre, in collaboration with the theater department there.
“The cost involved will be minimal, just rental for shuttles to and from to Sonoma State,” Fernandez said.
Rehearsals will be held on the junior college campus, and technical and dress rehearsals and performances will be on the SSU campus in Rohnert Park, McCauley explained.
The new 200-seat studio theater will open with “The Cripple of Inishmaan” in March.
The first show of the season will be “The Good Doctor” in the junior college’s smaller Newman Auditorium, which the school has used for small productions many times in the past.
This is the second major delay in the project. The original target date in May was pushed back to fall, when it discovered that underground power lines and cables and storm drains had to be moved.
“The plans showed them about 5 feet away from where they really were, and that would’ve put them under a new building wall,” Fernandez explained.
That forced the college to move its 2019 Summer Repertory Theatre season into a temporary pavilion at an additional cost of $200,000, but the college trustees and administration had set aside money to temporarily house programs as needed, he said.
The renovation project already had prompted the cancellation of the 2018 Summer Repertory Theatre season for the first and only time in the program’s 47-year history.
Renovation of the Luther Burbank Auditorium building began in December 2017. During the interim, the department has presented four musicals at the Maria Carrillo High School theater.
“We are so grateful for our faithful audience that has continued to come see us,” McCauley said. “We cannot wait to move into the new space. We’re just itching to get started.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter ?@danarts.
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