A near-capacity crowd drove through a wall-shaking windstorm Saturday night to attend the dedication of the Valley's newest performance space for concerts and theater.
The Glenn Massay Theater at Matanuska-Susitna College is the first new building to open on UAA's Palmer campus since 2003, said Talis Colberg, the college director. He called it "a big step for our college."
In addition to providing a professional-caliber stage and auditorium, the Massay Theater will host performances by community and visiting artists.
The 34,000-square-foot building, a decade in planning and construction, cost $20 million, said Matthew Sale, the managing director of the facility. The stage and backstage area encompasses about 10,000 square feet.
Dressing rooms and a green room, which doubles as a conference area, and a loading dock and scene shop for construction and storage occupy the area behind the stage. There's also a costume room that will eventually include a miniature stage under lights where costumers can get a good idea of how their creations will look during performances.
Most of the lights are LEDs, Sale said. That allows colors to be changed easily from the light booth. It also saves electrical costs, he noted. Some of the lights are on motors that allow them to revolve to create a sweep effect, popular for concerts.
The house also features a Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system that allows acoustical properties to be changed with the press of a button. Sale demonstrated by clapping his hands; the echo took about half a second, but it wasn't reverb from the walls, he said. "That's coming from the speakers. That's the Meyer Constellation."
Video screens in the area note upcoming events at the theater, such as the alternative bluegrass band The Duhks (the first scheduled public concert, on Sunday), a talk by petroleum writer Tim Bradner (Feb. 19) and a production of the musical "Shrek" by Colony High School students (Feb. 20-21). An oil painting titled "Start of the Hunt" by the late artist Fred Machetanz, who donated considerable property to the college, is prominently displayed.
The 520 seats, with luxurious legroom, are the color of raspberry frappe; "I think it's called fuchsia," Sales said. Seats nearest the stage have fold-out desks so students can take notes when the space is used for lectures.
The dedication was a semiprivate affair with university and political dignitaries, speeches, music and refreshments. It began with the Mat-Su Concert Band performing "Alaska's Flag." The state song was sung, on short notice, by Ashley Wedge, who is more usually heard playing clarinet with the band.
During the dedication, video showed the theater's namesake performing in a production of "Paint Your Wagon" by Valley Performing Arts. Glenn Massay, a longtime director of the college, died in 2013 at the age of 81.
The program continued with Broadway medleys. Jamie Metcalf performed a dance solo during "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables." Sousa's "The Gladiator March" was presented as an encore.
The sound quality from the band was very good. It was harder to judge some of the nuances from the event, since all the voices were miked, perhaps unnecessarily. Band director Gleo Huyck said the onstage acoustics were excellent. "The players can really hear each other," he said.
"I can't tell you how much it means to me and the band to have a real auditorium to perform in," he told the audience. The 70-member ensemble has had to play in churches, gymnasiums and cafeterias during its 30-year existence, he explained. The listening experience, often on folding chairs, could be less than luxurious.
"From now on all of our concerts are going to be here," he said. "This is our home."
The Mat-Su Concert Band will perform at 4 p.m. March 1 in the Glenn Massay Theater at Mat-Su College, 8295 E. College Drive, Palmer. More information is available at glennmassaytheater.com.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing