One hundred and twenty-nine Wayne State Insiders — faculty, staff, alumni, current and prospective students, and community members — gathered recently to get an inside look at the long-awaited reveal of the new Hilberry Gateway.
At the event, Insiders heard from Michael J Barnes, interim chair of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. Attendees learned about the current and upcoming 2023-24 performance season in this exciting new space, taken on a guided tour and then witnessed two dressed-down performances from the musical "Cabaret," which was the first production to open the new performance space.
“Insiders is a group interested in learning more — whether it’s setting foot in new buildings and spaces like the Hilberry Gateway or becoming immersed in initiatives like Learning Communities,” said Julie Hasse, associate director of marketing and communications and mastermind behind the event. “Those who are willing to take the time to learn more about WSU become outstanding ambassadors for our campus.”
Part of Wayne State’s College of Fine, Performing and Communications Arts, the Hilberry Gateway is the performance home for the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance. It houses two state-of-the-art theatres with 21st-century technology design and production facilities. The elevated venue will inspire and support Wayne State’s theatre and dance programs, while also serving the community and Detroit’s performance legacy.
“I appreciate working in a culture where we are assessing and innovating for the future of our students and surrounding community. Seeing places like the Hilberry Gateway, STEM Building and the soon-to-re-open State Hall promotes growth and demonstrates our commitment to keeping ahead of the times for our students to have access to the best learning environments possible,” said Hasse.
Throughout the tour, Hilberry personnel recounted memories and anecdotes that brought them full circle to this special moment. The Hilberry legacy has launched the careers of Lily Tomlin, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Garth Fagan, S. Epatha Merkerson, Sam Richardson and many more.
Repeatedly voicing how amazed he was by how many people showed up to the Insiders event, tour guide and ASO II/production coordinator for the theatre Dana Gamarra said the advanced technologies in the facility allow students to learn skills that translate to working in other venues — from lighting and sound to costumes and set-building.
“For a long time, the Hilberry Theatre next door served its beautiful purpose. This was something we needed so we could focus on classes and learning, as well as productions,” added Gamarra.
Spaces seen in the tour included: The costume shop, student lounge, design studios, printing room, electronics room, work-station room, costume-fitting rooms, the main stage, the black box theatre, and multiple storage and workshop rooms.
An overarching theme repeated from the kickoff speech to the "Cabaret" sendoff was the focus on students and their craft; how this iconic, reimagined and modern space will benefit them now and forever, helping bring their dreams to life in the heart of Detroit and beyond.
“People of Michigan don’t realize how great we are,” said Gamarra. “The people here are phenomenal. Everyone who worked to bring this vision to life; they came together to help people they’ll never meet. I don’t know what’s in our water, but this is just what we do.”
By Katheryn Kutil