New Purple Masque Theatre to feature plethora of upgrades


The Purple Masque Theatre is moving to a new location, from the east side of Memorial Stadium to the west, and the east side of the stadium will become the new Welcome Center for K-State.

John Uthoff, chair of the project and associate professor of music, theatre and dance, said the new Purple Masque will serve many of the same purposes as the old and should be finished by the summer of 2014. 

“Since the Purple Masque is such an important part of the program in terms of the training of the people that are interested in theatre, [the university] agreed that they would build a new Purple Masque before they took away the present one,” Uthoff said.

Some aspects of the Purple Masque will be brand-new, such as the stage and backstage equipment. The new theater will also produce better sound and lighting.

The theater will also feature a green roof built of live plants to keep water from leaking down into the new facility. As a result of the green roof, Memorial Stadium seating will be cut down to about 1,000 seats, Uthoff said. 

The complex will cost between about $1.2 million and $1.3 million, and the green roof will be $1.5 million, according to Uthoff. The total cost of the whole project, included both the Purple Masque and the new Welcome Center, is estimated to be about $4.5 million, according to Uthoff. 

Sally Bailey, professor of music, theatre and dance and director of the drama therapy program, said the current Purple Masque was created for students a long time ago. Bailey said the theatre program needs a new building and that the drama therapy program will greatly benefit from being housed in the new Purple Masque because it will have its own classroom. 

“I am really excited about it because I have only had the current Purple Masque Theatre to do my drama therapy course in and it has been restrictive in terms of space,” Bailey said.

Drama therapy helps build social skills for people who have disabilities through the use of puppets and acting to help participants work out issues in their lives, Bailey said. Air conditioning in the new facility will allow the drama therapy program to continue its summer camp in more comfortable conditions. 

Bailey said the new Purple Masque will enable theatre students to enjoy better equipment, and will enable the actors in student-directed plays to have more space to practice their acting.

LeAnn Meyer, associate marketing director and graduate student in drama therapy, has directed past plays and is currently directing “Kimberly Akimbo.” She said the new Purple Masque Theatre will have some much-needed upgrades.

“As a facility itself, the current Purple Masque will always be near and dear to my heart, but having the new facility will be a very large upgrade for us,” Meyer said.

The new theater will have a bigger stage and more seats with much better lighting and sound, Meyer explained, and K-State will benefit from having a theater comparable to those of other schools.  

It also helps with theatre design students who will be seeking jobs after graduation, Meyer said. Newer equipment can help these students become more familiar with the type of equipment they will be using for their jobs. Meyer pointed out that this kind of experience gives students a considerable advantage in the job market because many other theatre programs do not offer students the experience that K-State does.

K-State students can claim that they directed whole plays and performed lighting or sound design which, at other schools, is often done by professors, Meyer said. Actors can start as freshmen and build their resume, which other schools do not allow underclassmen to do. 

“The resume itself is what makes our students stand out,” Meyer said.