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President Paul Hennigan and Conservatory of Performing Arts Artistic Director Ronald Allan-Lindblom survey construction progress on the main stage theater at the new Playhouse site on Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Point
Winter 2017

Point Park students, faculty and staff joined President Paul Hennigan, Board of Trustees chair Anne Lewis, and other friends of the University on Nov. 30 for a topping off ceremony for the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, now under construction in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Hennigan invited everyone to follow his lead in signing the final beam for the new Playhouse, which is situated on a 1.6 acre parcel between Forbes and Fourth Avenues. It is set to open in 2018.

"This is an important day in the life of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse and Point Park University," Hennigan said at the ceremony, which took place in the University Center adjacent to the Playhouse. "As you sign the beam, I would like you to think about what it represents for you."

Beam-signingwebJPA_0160A Rich Legacy

"For me," said Hennigan, "here is what it represents. The Pittsburgh Playhouse journey began over 80 years ago. After a couple of years of make-shift theaters, the Pittsburgh Playhouse organization bought the auditorium building on Hamlet Street in Oakland and built a larger stage. That theatre, which we now call the Rauh Theatre, is what is considered to be the original Pittsburgh Playhouse and it was known as the Hamlet Theatre."

"Point Park College bought the current version of the Pittsburgh Playhouse in 1968, along with the Playhouse School, which was the beginning of Point Park's now nationally recognized theatre program. That was almost 50 years ago, and Playbill magazine just ranked us in the Top 10 on Broadway," Hennigan said. "That was also the beginning of Point Park's highly acclaimed dance program, founded by Nicholas Petrov, who also started The Pittsburgh Ballet in the same year. Depending on which ranking you read, our Dance program is now either number two or three in the nation."

Crown Jewel

"So there is a lot of rich history in the placement of this steel beam," said Hennigan. "For me, the contemporary meaning of all of this today, is: This beam represents the crown jewel of the Academic Village Initiative."

The eight-foot steel beam, which remained in the University Center for two days after the ceremony to enable students and others to add signatures, was draped with a gold necklace from the costume and scenery shop of the Conservatory of Performing Arts. In early December, the signed beam (adorned with the costume necklace) was set in place high atop the Playhouse structure on the Fourth Avenue side of the complex, not far from the future location of the new prop shop.

Hennigan told those gathered for the signing ceremony that the new Playhouse will be a cultural hub and "an innovative academic lab for the entire University." He added: "Performance students will use the studios and stages, theatre tech students will design and build masterful sets, and cinema students will use the sound stage."

In addition, he said, "Business students will run every aspect of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, communication students will do all of the marketing, advertising, promotions and social media, and Arts and Sciences students will host a wide variety of speakers and topics. Artists from around the country will flock to the new Playhouse to try out their new works."

Heartbeat of Downtown Pittsburgh

Hennigan added, "For the first time in 50 years, Point Park University will have its entire physical campus right in the heart of Pittsburgh."

"I believe it will become the heartbeat of Downtown Pittsburgh."

Construction of the Playhouse is about 30 percent complete. In December, the site was covered so work can continue on the complex throughout the winter. Off-site work currently being done includes restoration of a stained-glass ceiling in the Stock Exchange Building, and restoration of the three Forbes Avenue facades that will be reused in the Playhouse's two-story outdoor courtyard.

Community members can watch the development of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, as it unfolds in real time, from the University's 24/7 construction cam: Follow the action.

Photo by John Altdorfer
The Point is the magazine of Point Park University