'The arts give joy and meaning to life, and I’m so pleased that Roe Green has chosen to support CU Boulder and the surrounding community in such a creative and meaningful way,' says Chancellor Phil DiStefano
With the grand opening of the renovated Roe Green Theatre on Nov. 3, the university has ushered in a new era for CU Boulder’s Department of Theatre & Dance.
To celebrate the theater’s opening, the department hosted a celebratory ribbon-cutting featuring remarks from campus and university leadership—as well as the theater’s namesake, Roe Green—ahead of the opening night performance of Working, A Musical.
The state-of-the-art renovations were made possible with a gift from arts patron, philanthropist and alumna Roe Green (Comm, Thtr’70) in 2021. Formerly known as the University Theatre, the iconic theater was renamed in recognition of Green’s generosity.
“The arts give joy and meaning to life, and I’m so pleased that Roe Green has chosen to support CU Boulder and the surrounding community in such a creative and meaningful way,” said CU Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano.
Innovation by design
Originally built in 1904 as the campus library on what would become the Norlin Quadrangle, the theater’s last major update was completed more than 30 years ago. According to the Campus Master Plan, a major addition in 1985 included new studios and classrooms for the Division of Dance. In 1989, the older sections were renovated, and a new stage house was added to provide a backstage and wings for the existing theater.
This time around, improving the theater-going experience through advanced acoustics and audience comfort were the key renovation goals. This included adding a near-silent air-handling system, improved stage lighting, optimized acoustic-speaker placement and faceted surfaces that clearly reflect sound from the stage to the audience.
“Our brilliant architects from Architectural Workshop not only achieved this goal—they were also able to improve the positions for theatrical lighting and speakers, the air handling and the overall aesthetics of the space,” said Bud Coleman, the Roe Green Professor of Theatre and associate dean of faculty affairs and initiatives in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“This is modern acoustical science at work—and the impacts are profound,” said Jonathan Spencer, assistant professor of lighting design, in a video tour of the renovated theater.
Embracing the arts
Green’s record-breaking $5 million gift—the largest ever to the Department of Theatre & Dance—was announced in 2021 and welcomed students and the community back to campus after pandemic restrictions.
“The arts are what make us human,” said Green when asked why supporting live performance matters. When budgets get tight, she said, “The first thing the schools take away are the arts. It should be the last thing they take away!”
In addition to the theater’s sweeping physical upgrades, Green’s gift also establishes endowed funds for student scholarships, theater maintenance and “launch” events designed to kick-start students’ careers.
The arts are what make us human,” said Green when asked why supporting live performance matters. When budgets get tight, she said, “The first thing the schools take away are the arts. It should be the last thing they take away!”
“Through her generous philanthropy, many more students, faculty, staff and community members will be able to embrace the life-changing power of theater and dance,” said DiStefano.
One of CU Boulder’s largest arts donors to date, Green previously established the campus's Roe Green Theatre Artist Residency Program and the theater department’s first endowed faculty chair.
Transforming lives, transforming the future
The renovated theater’s opening coincided with the debut of Working, A Musical—a celebration of the unsung heroes of everyday life, such as the schoolteacher, phone operator, waitress, millworker, mason and homemaker. In CU’s production, this classic has been updated for a modern age, featuring new interviews with Colorado workers and new songs by Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as favorites by Stephen Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, James Taylor and Micki Grant.
Based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with American workers, the production runs through Nov. 12 and is the 2023–24 Roe Green Production. This program is funded by the Roe Green Visiting Theatre Artist Fund, which allows the Department of Theatre & Dance to invite professional guest artists to campus annually to work with CU Boulder students.
Coleman said Green’s generous gifts are truly an investment in the future of live performance at CU Boulder.
“Roe’s endowment will mean that the theater will continue to have funding to make necessary changes to stay current with new technologies, and will also provide scholarships for students to pursue the study of theater,” he said.
“Roe’s conviction in the power of theater to transform lives inspires us to work harder, work better and work smarter.”
Additional funding support was provided by the CU Boulder Graduate School Professional Master’s Program in Experience Design, the University of Colorado Foundation and the CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance.