Strayer-Wood: Unbelievable

The stage and auditorium right after completion in 1978.


The stage and auditorium right after completion in 1978.

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Editors Note: This article was first published in the Northern Iowan on Feb. 17, 1978. 

Wait just a minute, this is supposed to be UNI – the “other” university. Can something like this be possible here? 

As hard as it may seem, UNI has a new theatre that ranks with the best, maybe even better than the Guthrie. To say the lease, the new Strayer-Wood is spellbinding. 

The reason Strayer-Wood might be even better than the Guthrie in Minneapolis is that Strayer-Wood seats about ⅓ as many people; consequently, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. 

The construction of the facility began about three years ago. The name Strayer-Wood, was derived from Hazel Strayer and Stanley Wood, who were both professors here. Both ms. Strayer and Mr. Wood are deceased, although Wood was on hand for the ground breaking ceremony. 

The complex is extremely complicated. There are separate rooms for costume storage, make-up, costume design room, a party room of sorts, and most interesting of all is the “trap” room. The trap room is in the basement of the theatre and by simply lifting out a panel one can rise onto the stage from seemingly out of the ground. 

All the lighting and the sound are done by a computer, although they aren’t functioning for “Lion in Winter.” That won’t be a problem though, as the systems can be operated manually as well. 

Another feature Strayer-Wood will have is a bar, with alcoholic drinks!

One of the most amazing aspects of the new theatre is that it can convert from proscenium to a thrust stage. A proscenium stage is the standard shape of a theatre, where the audience is sitting directly in front of the stage. A thrust stage is a three sided auditorium, where the audience is sitting to the side of the stage in addition to the seats in front of the stage. This is a major aspect of the facility, and something the Guthrie set out to do, but ran out of funds before the work could be done. 

Because “Lion in Winter,” the play now showing is utilizing the thrust stage, director George Glenn said that one can get an entirely different perspective of the play depending on where one sits. Such a feat would not be possible with the standard proscenium stage. 

“Lion in Winter” has had its fair share of problems, and many of them because of Strayer-Wood. Since the group hasn’t been able to use the facility they have been forced to rehearse in the Auditorium. Needless to say, the old theatre doesn’t even come close to Strayer-Wood. 

Then, due to the Artist Series, the group had to find a new place to rehearse. At first they used the scene shop, and then had to move once again. This time it was the women’s lounge in the basement of the Aud. Much like the Aud., the women’s lounge didn’t compare with Strayer-Wood. 

Once in the new theatre, the actors and actresses had to differ their voice every night due to the additional furnishings which were put in every day. This created some problems. 

Glenn said that the group has been doing a good job of things. “The rehearsals have been varied, but we’re finally in good shape,” said the UNI professor. 

The only group that the theatre department has to share the new building with is the music department, and Glenn said that won’t be a problem. 

The $4.5 million theatre is now open. It is almost complete with a few minor additions yet to be added. Let UNI take your breath away and see the play. Tickets are still on sale.