With chilly winds, evening temperatures bordering freezing and seemingly endless final exams, December has brought in winter alongside the end of the semester. Students have almost pushed through the Coronavirus-laden semester with one constant looming over these past months: the reconstruction of Tyler Junior College’s theatre, The Rogers Palmer Performing Arts Center. The rebuild of the center has hung tall over the campus, slowly but surely coming together step by step with each passing trip to class, but with interior seating coming in, the completion of the college’s storied institution draws near.
“I’m proud to say that we’re on track to be open right on schedule, which is this coming January. These past couple of months have really flown by,” said Director of Theatre Facilities Bryce McWilliams.
The build has been an endeavor for all involved before COVID-19 struck the world this past year, forcing builders to abide by virus regulations including masks and social-distancing strategies as best they can within the tight construction spaces. According to McWilliams and contractor Nelson Puttick, COVID-19 has been the largest setback for the construction effort since its start in May 2019. The workers haven’t let COVID-19 regulations slow them down too much, though. If one takes a stroll near the construction site, they’ll see a state-of-the-art building practically on the steps of completion, only requiring finishing interior touches and landscaping. This visage is a striking contrast to the sight of the unassuming skeleton of a theatre in the past months.
“I really enjoy finally getting the interior done. Everything starts coming together there in ways that people actually recognize,” said Puttick among his men at the jobsite.
McWilliams shared this feeling. “Like Dad always said, ‘I love doing sheetrock. Once you get that slapped up, people say that you guys are really getting it done!’” McWilliams said.
The workers on the site seemed to share the sentiment, as well. Upon time of interviews and pictures for this article, the job site was a flurry of movement. Hardhat-covered heads quickly crisscrossed past each other in search of finishing tasks to close in on this job, steel-toed boots making loud chunking sounds as make their way.
The new performing arts center will feature numerous improvements to the previous building, including over four new rehearsal studios, a kitchen, improved orchestra pit, plenty of welcome breathing room for guests and performers and more welcoming green rooms all of which and more will be ready for the building’s opening this coming January in the spring 2021 semester.
There are no shows planned for the new center yet, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the Performing Arts Department is eager and looking into the perfect first show to christen the new theatre.
“Aside from just being excited to have the job done, I’m most excited for students to have this new space so that they can have that true next step from performing at their high school to nearing the professional world,” McWilliams said.
For any news on the first show for the new center visit, https://www.tjc.edu/news/20185/performingarts.