Elmhurst College's Mill Theatre to get upgrade after alumna's gift

Elmhurst College submission
Posted5/19/2012 6:26 AM

This fall, Elmhurst College's Mill Theatre will debut not only "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" but also an expansive new lobby, plush theater seats and big, new restrooms that won't have to be shared with the cast and crew.

The extensive renovations to the Mill Theatre, which will get under way later this month, are possible because of a $250,000 gift from alumna Meredith Wollenberg Morrison, Class of 1972 and a longtime supporter of the college's theater program.


"I am so grateful for the continued support Meredy has shown Elmhurst College over the years, especially to its theater program," said President S. Alan Ray. "Her wonderful generosity gives us an opportunity to make critical improvements that increase accessibility and enhance the theater experience on our campus."

The most dramatic changes will be in the lobby, which will be completely remodeled. The resulting space will be nearly twice as large and will include a permanent box office. Two sets of entrance doors will enhance traffic flow between the lobby and the theater.

Just off the lobby will be the new restrooms. The old ones were hard to find, inaccessible to patrons who use wheelchairs and walkers, and had to be shared with the cast and crew.

Inside the theater, the seating will be refurbished and more than a dozen new seats added, bringing the total number to 180. The theater also will get a new lighting booth.

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The renovation will take place over the summer and should be move-in ready by early August.

"For people who've been here year after year, this will be a huge change," said theater professor and department chairman Alan Weiger.

Morrison's gift through The Wollenberg Foundation follows a $50,000 donation made to the Mill in 2009, which paid for a new stage, a new ventilation system and ceiling fans, and upgrades to the costume shop.

A theater and sociology major when she attended Elmhurst, Morrison was an active participant in the theater program's Chancel Players and a member of its theater recognition society, Theta Alpha Phi.

"Providing this gift to Elmhurst makes it possible for the college to upgrade the Mill in significant, visible ways," Morrison said. "It's very gratifying to know I'm making a difference."