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After 18 months of renovations, Harris Theatre on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus is once again open for performances.
“While most of the impact of the improvements will be felt by the students, faculty and staff of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the entire Mason community now has the opportunity to experience tomorrow’s stars before they become famous in a modernized, intimate space,” said Dan Hobson, production manager for the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
The venue's busy spring schedule includes the Mason Players performance of “Everybody” on March 31-April 2, the School of Dance's Spring New Dances on April 15-16, and Mason Opera's presentation of “La Cenerentola” on April 29-May 1.
“Harris is right at the heart of arts at Mason, and it’s great to have it back,” said CVPA Dean Rick Davis.
Opened in 1980 and named for the late Mason benefactor Holbert L. Harris, the proscenium theater seats 460 and is one of the most-used spaces on campus. The renovation features an expanded lobby, an updated ticket office, a new entrance near the walking meditation garden, and a marquee to announce upcoming performances.
Another plus: Dedicated restrooms. Previously patrons and performers had to exit the theater and go down the hall and into the former Robinson Hall B to use the restroom. This is no longer the case. The renovation includes both a performers’ restroom and designated restrooms for patrons.
The renovation also includes new air handling systems, new stage equipment and more storage, and a new stage-level dressing room. Prior to the renovation, the only dressing rooms available to performers were one floor down and under the stage. Those old dressing rooms have also been upgraded with new individual stations and chairs and will still be used.
“The house lighting is now energy efficient, and the stage lighting has been upgraded to provide consistency during performances,” said Hobson.
“It is CVPA’s busiest venue for student performances, in addition to hosting visiting lectures, panel discussions and screenings,” said Julie Thompson, executive director for Mason's Center for the Arts. “The theater’s location on Wilkins Plaza and next to Horizon Hall is a newly prominent spot on campus.”
“Theaters, like any sort of machine, have a maintenance and a lifespan schedule,” said Davis. “Harris Theatre was like that old car in the driveway you know is still running—it still gets you to the grocery store, but it didn’t get very good mileage and needed to go to the shop a lot.”
He added: “Every day I take a walk down that pathway and go between Horizon Hall and Harris Theatre and just marvel at what used to be and what is now. It’s just beautiful.”