Greenhill Arts Center Takes Center Stage

For students enrolled in the Greenhill School’s film classes, the new fine arts center can’t come soon enough. Students taking the most sought-after elective in the upper school with film teacher Corbin Doyle are limited to using computers on alternating days. But by the end of 2015, everything will change.

The opening of the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center, scheduled for late 2015, will mark a milestone for the school’s fine arts program. With a 600-seat auditorium, a 150-seat studio theater, a dance and choral hall, video and production classrooms, and galleries, the center will impact each student’s daily life.

“This center will transform the campus and its mentality,” said Michael Manes, Greenhill’s head of fine arts. “Our current space was built in the 1970s, but the school was small. Now, we have more than 1,200 students, and this will change the entire complexion of what we do.”

With more than 75 productions each year, between lower, middle, and upper schools ranging from band concerts to musicals such as the most recent “Addams Family,” the school will finally have sufficient space to house them all.

“We have had practice space for the band but we perform concerts in the gym,” said Brian Donnell, middle and upper school band director. “The gym is great for basketball but isn’t exactly a great performance hall.”

But the space won’t only serve students dedicated to fine arts. Scott Griggs, head of school, explained that with the addition of the 600-seat auditorium, each school will have an area to meet as a group.

“We have school meetings each week, with faculty and student speakers, so every student in middle school will be in the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center once if not twice a week, in addition to classes,” Griggs said.
Students are already excited for the opportunities that will be newly available in the space, according to their fine arts teachers.

“In the new studio theater, we’ll have fly space, something we’ve never had before. They’ve all studied it in books and I’ve explained how it works in professional theaters but the students are so very excited to see and use it all for themselves,” said Michael Orman, technical theater director.

For first-year Greenhill Upper School theater teacher Catherine Hopkins, the new space has already allowed for new creative experiences for students. The building has allowed for the creation of the Greenhill Theater Company, which will include aspiring designers, playwrights, actors and directors in a single classroom, working under conservatory-style instruction.
“The new space has completely facilitated building this company,” Hopkins said. “We train students to be artists on every front, and this just explodes those possibilities.”

Students in 9th through 12th grades at Greenhill are required to take at least one elective credit in an arts class, but nearly every student exceeds that requirement, according to Griggs.

“It shows how much the students value the arts,” he said. “We’ve always had an emphasis on the three As: arts, academics, and athletics. We are totally committed to being excellent in all three areas. This facility will only enhance that goal.”

The building is part of the school’s most ambitious financial campaign in its 65-year history. The campaign raised $40 million as of early April, with still more money to raise. The funds cover the Marshall Performing Arts Center as well as redesigned cafeteria spaces, including the repurposing of the existing Zale-Fields Theater as an extension of the Crossman Hall dining facility.

“When I was hired 15 years ago, they were already talking about the need for a new fine arts center,” said Griggs. “Now, we’re looking forward to building an award-winning, iconic building on campus — one that stands out in Dallas.”

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