Grants Allow Mars Hill University to Upgrade Lighting and Sound in Owen Theatre

Mars Hill University’s Owen Theatre is getting a new sound and lighting system. Thanks to generous donations from the Stonecutter Foundation and Dominion Energy, the university will purchase a new sound board, wireless microphones, spotlights, and other equipment to improve the audio and visual experience of theatre patrons.

“We believe this is a wonderful opportunity to assist students in pursuit of careers in theatre arts and we are fortunate to have Mars Hill University in our area.” said Terri Barringer, executive director of the Stonecutter Foundation.

In its request for funding, the university noted that Owen Theatre has never had modern lighting equipment such as quality spotlights, which is standard for most theaters. Operating without the use of proper lighting impacts the quality of the shows and the experiences of both the actors and the audience members. It also prevents students from learning to operate such equipment, which puts them at a disadvantage when pursuing theater production after graduation. In addition, projectors and screens are needed to make the shows more visible to those individuals who have vision issues or who are seated far from the stage.

“Not only does the MHU Theatre Arts Department and SART benefit from gifts such as this but our community at-large uses Owen Theatre and will also benefit,” said Sue Fair, chair of the university’s theatre arts department. ”This improvement will offer our patrons a much better experience in our space and modern technical training needed for our students. We are so grateful to Stonecutter Foundation and Dominion Energy for their generous donations!”

Each year at least 34 events are held at the theater including at least 13 productions by SART. The theatre also serves as a venue for public workshops. Of the 30,000 attendees who come to productions and events at the Owen Theatre each year, most are community members and secondary students from public schools throughout western North Carolina. With the relaxing of pandemic restrictions the university is seeing a resurgence of interest in theatre and has a full schedule of productions scheduled for 2022, including the recently completed run of “Cinderella, the Enchanted Version.”