|Flourish Online Magazine||Spring 2012|
The Onyx Theater: A shining gemstone
By Cheryl Anderson Brown
(Above) John Gentile and Joseph Meeks unveil
Photo by Tracie L. Hinnant
(Below) Peruvian guest artists Cuatrotablas
Photo courtesy of Cuatrotablas
A couple of people slip into the theater and quietly take their seats. They speak to a few people; then they settle in for the performance. Like everyone else, they laugh and sigh as the student actors present a selection of scenes from the season. They look just like everyone else.
But, there is a difference.
The whole event has been created to honor the generosity of this anonymous pair. On March 25, the College of the Arts and the Department of Theatre, Performance Studies and Dance celebrated a $250,000 anonymous donation to name the department’s black box theater. Because the donors did not wish to be recognized, preferring that the title reflect the work that is created in the facility, a creative process was used to select a name. Faculty members generated a list of proposals from which the donors ultimately selected “The Onyx Theater.”
“The name ‘Onyx’ dignifies the space by associating its blackness with a gemstone, a transformation into that which is precious,” according to department chair John Gentile, who initially conceived the name.
The donors were excited about the name because, “The Onyx Theater is a space for transforming students into actors whose talents shine like a gemstone.”
Helping transform students into “gemstones” is what motivated these donors to make this significant gift (see sidebar). After observing the work of the department and making several smaller gifts over the years, they decided the opportunity to name the theater would provide them with “lasting joy.” At their request, the gift has been placed in an endowed fund that will generate an annual amount of money to be awarded to faculty members for projects that will ultimately benefit students. In its first year of operation, the gift has funded lighting and dance projects and helped the department host a residency by Cuatrotablas, a professional theater ensemble from Peru. Any faculty member in the department may propose a project to a selection committee of fellow faculty members each year.
“This is another significant milestone for the arts at Kennesaw State. We are deeply grateful to the donors for their generous support,” said Joseph Meeks, dean of the College of the Arts. “In the last five years, donors like these have partnered with us to create numerous new scholarships, to open a concert hall, an art gallery, and this theater. The long-term benefits of this support cannot be overstated. We are able to attract the best faculty and recruit talented and dedicated students.”
As for the donors, they were thrilled to let the students take all of the bows at the naming celebration. “We could remain in the background and the focus was on the student performers. After all, that is what this is all about.”