As the world of live theater strives to resume this fall after a long pandemic hiatus, alumna, arts aficionado and philanthropist Roe Green is helping welcome students and the community back with a record-breaking $5 million gift for the CU Boulder theater program.
The donation—the largest ever to the Department of Theatre & Dance—will fund a complete acoustic upgrade for the University Theatre and establish endowed funds for student scholarships, theater maintenance and “launch” events designed to kick-start students’ careers.
“Roe Green’s philanthropy has transformed CU theater and will continue to benefit students, staff and faculty for decades to come,” said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano.
Artist renderings of the the new Roe Green Theatre, to open in the fall of 2023 at CU Boulder.
To recognize Green’s generosity, the university will change the name of the University Theatre to the Roe Green Theatre. After a period of renovations in 2022–23, the theater is expected to formally reopen under its new name in the fall of 2023.
Professor Bud Coleman, the Roe Green Endowed Chair in Theatre, has worked with Green for almost 20 years to address the needs of the CU Department of Theatre & Dance.
“She is more than a fairy godmother; she is our celebrated alumna, beneficent donor and lifelong friend,” he said.
Theater: What makes us human
Green first fell in love with theater as a CU Boulder student in the late 1960s. Though she initially started as an art major, her world transformed after she volunteered to take notes for a faculty director during a theater class her freshman year. That led to several assistant directing opportunities, and from there, the magic of theater drew her in and never let go.
Enamored with theater’s backstage and managerial elements, Green continued building her passion for the art and graduated from CU in 1970 with her bachelor’s degree in theater and communications. Later, she received her master’s degree in theater from Kent State University and established herself as a stage and business manager for theaters across her home state of Ohio.
When she reflects on her education, Green credits her theater courses for her confidence.
“I’m not afraid to speak to people,” Green said. “Every kid should have a theater class.”
Green is one of CU Boulder’s largest arts donors to date, having previously established the Roe Green Theatre Artist Residency Program and the theater department’s first endowed faculty chair. Outside of CU, she has given gifts to name the Roe Green Center for the School of Theatre and Dance at Kent State University. She also funds the Roe Green Traveling Masters Program, a national education program on the craft of stage writing produced by the New York City-based Dramatists Guild Foundation.
Green continues to support CU Boulder and other theater programs around the country because of her strong belief in the power of storytelling.
“Theater and the performing arts make us human,” she said. “This is how we pass on what we know.”
Investing in innovation
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some things may have changed about the way live theater was delivered—but the dreams of talented young people never stopped. With her gift, Green is celebrating those dreams in this new era for the performing arts.
The largest portion of Green’s gift, $2 million, will support an acoustic overhaul of the current University Theatre space. Built in 1904, the theater building was originally constructed as the campus library and helped define the historic Norlin Quadrangle.
With the last major renovation over 30 years ago, once-new elements of the theater’s architecture and equipment are now out of date. New structures and equipment will allow for better acoustic performance and noise control, creating a more immersive audience experience.
“I like to joke that it’s not a renovation but a Roe-novation,” said Erika Randall, chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance. “The Roe Green Theatre will house world-class theater and dance and will be a transformative space for generations of students who are deeply invested in transforming the arts and refining their creativity. We are deeply grateful for Roe and believe that her passion for the arts will forever spark future student learning.”
The architect selected for the renovation, Architectural Workshop, is a Denver-based firm that emphasizes a team approach to its design. Their work previously has been honored for excellence in historic renovation, including in performing arts venues.
“In addition to a performing venue, the Roe Green Theatre is also a teaching laboratory,” said Coleman. “Students will experiment in this state-of-the-art space with the acoustic properties of the human voice and sound design.”
Green’s gift will also establish a $1.5 million endowed scholarship fund for theater students, providing them with financial support for their education—whether as performers, stage managers, lighting designers, directors or other supporting roles. Additionally, it will create a $1 million endowed fund to support longer-term renovations, ongoing maintenance and enhancements to the Roe Green Theatre.
Another $500,000 from Green’s gift will endow innovative “launch” programming designed to propel senior theater students to the next stage in their career. As part of this program, students will travel to cities like New York or Los Angeles for professional auditions, showcases, festivals or conferences that will help them land career opportunities post-graduation.
“We are so excited to add the Roe Green Launch Program to our suite of professional orientation courses and activities,” said Coleman. “Our goal is for theater students to create a business plan before they graduate so that, when they leave us, these alumni are self-employed artists with a strategy to achieve their goals.”