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PAC costume shop "one of the largest in Texas"

By Megan Carey
On December 3, 2009

The Performing Arts Center, more commonly known as the PAC, is a well-known building in the front of campus with a long history. Most students have at least one class in the PAC over their academic career at Texas A&M University-Commerce and many students become even more involved with the PAC for various reasons.


"The PAC actually has one classroom, a television studio and a computer lab. KETR used to broadcast here," Professor of Theatre Jim Anderson said.


The PAC was a direct result of McDowell's construction program of the 1970s, as was the Agriculture building.


The Performing Arts Center was opened in 1976. It was in the process of being built as of Sept. 5, 1975 when Charles Morrow, vice president for administration, was quoted as saying it was " from six to nine months away" from completion in an article in The East Texan.


It was supposed to be completed prior to the fall of 1976, but it was delayed due to a worker's strike over the summer of 1975. The PAC was built with a budget of $2,141,850, which today would be approximately $8.5 million.


According to "Professor Mayo's College" by Donald Reynolds the PAC's main stage is "outfitted with plush seats, a large proscenium and a revolving stage, and sited on the shore of Gee Lake, the PAC provided an ideal setting for the performing arts."


The Performing Arts Center was the brainchild of F.H. "Bub" McDowell. The construction of the PAC is the best thing to happen to Gee Lake, which used to be just a swamp. Whenever McDowell decided he wanted to beautify the campus, Gee Lake was the perfect location Anderson said.


The architect who designed the building was John Klutz who collaborated with, then department head, Curtis L. Pope. Pope had previously gone to England and seen the Olivier Theatre and was adamant that the theatre be alike in structure; thus the Main Stage in the PAC is a scaled down replica of the Olivier.


Over the years there have been numerous plays, productions and speakers on the main stage.


"Fiddler on the Roof was the first ever production on the main stage," Anderson said. "Back then ticket prices were $2 and now they are only $3. We feel like the theatre is a service to the students."


The theatre can seat 304 people and the actual stage is a modified proscenium thrust stage, which means the audience is on three sides.


"[The main stage's] revolving stage moves at one revolution per minute," Anderson said. "There can be two sets on stage at one time."


The PAC's theatre department has an extensive, state of the art scene shop and costume shop.


"The costume shop is one of the largest in Texas, in terms of universities," Anderson said.


The main stage is also the first to have a computerized sound system of any university around. Connected to the main stage are elephant doors, which are technically large enough to bring an elephant onto the stage. There is another pair of elephant doors to the scene shop, which allows for large pieces of scenery to be moved on stage.


As far as the name goes, according to Anderson, for years theatre faculty in the PAC wanted to name the main stage the ‘Curtis L. Pope Theatre', but once they joined the A&M system there are rules that only allow buildings to be named after past presidents. Therefore the main stage remains the name of the stage.


The PAC also has a black box theatre, which is painted all black. The layout of the theatre allows for many different arrangements of seating and also diverse arrangements for the stage.


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