The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Marshall Hall to be demolished, replaced by theatre building

4 min read

Marshall Hall will be razed in 2023. | Emily Sanborn / The Blue & Gray Press

by BRADEN ROBERTS

Staff Writer

Marshall Hall will be razed and rebuilt as the new location for the Department of Theatre and Dance. The architecture is currently being planned and demolition should go into effect in 2023. The new building is expected to be finished two years after that.

Once the new theatre building is completed and usable for theatre classes, DuPont, Melchers and Pollard Halls will be renovated to serve as buildings for UMW’s Department of Art and Art History and the Department of Music. 

“This new building will include all classrooms, studios, shops, theatres and offices that the department needs,” said Gregg Stull, chair of the Theatre and Dance Department. “The new facility will give us opportunities to produce plays and musicals that Klein Theatre cannot support.”

The administration decided that some halls, including Marshall and Alvey, are more costly to renovate than to build new ones, as they need to be made accessible for students and community members with disabilities, as well as provide more space and better ventilation. When looking for locations to place the new building, Marshall Hall was not deemed as architecturally significant as other, more historic campus buildings, which provided the option to demolish the building. The Marshall Hall location allows for a large, new building.

Stull sees Marshall Hall’s location as more accessible from downtown Fredericksburg than the current theatre building.

“This location will activate a sort of ‘gateway’ to campus from downtown,” he said. “This is a strong location for the building since performances draw a significant audience from the regional Fredericksburg area.”

Junior psychology major Carson Miller, a student who formerly lived in Marshall Hall her freshman year, feels bittersweet about this demolition.

“I met some of my closest friends here at Mary Washington while living in Marshall and I have a lot of good memories attached to that place, especially because my freshman year was the last time I was here at UMW before COVID hit,” she said. “However, I am, for the most part, indifferent about its demolition because it’s just a building, and the friendships and memories I made there are more important.”

Miller believes that the benefits of this new building will ultimately outweigh the negatives of destroying Marshall Hall. 

While current theatre students will graduate before the completion of this new building, they also have opinions on the change.

Senior double major in theatre and religious studies Nathan Marshak likes DuPont Hall and Klein Theatre but recognizes a need for change.

“With the current building, I find its size charming,” said Marshak. “It’s weird to say I feel nostalgic for it, but having used that building for the entirety of my college career, I’ve grown quite attached. But as much as I love the current building, I understand that changes are needed to keep things moving along with productivity and educational opportunity.”

Marshak has been involved in UMW’s Department of Theatre for all four years of his college career. He has performed in several productions and will be in the upcoming performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in spring 2022.

He hopes to see more of UMW Theatre’s history in the new building.

“As lovely as it is to see photos of past productions—hope they keep those in the new building—I’d love to see more memorabilia put on display in the entry part of the hall,” he said. “It’d be cool to see the history of UMW Theatre through set models or props and costumes on display.”

The only thing Marshak is concerned about is how far this new location is from the majority of the campus, being at the bottom of the hill near the Bell Tower.

“It is rather strange to think about how they’re moving the theatre building from one end of campus to the other,” he said. “It’s a significant placement change just from that distance alone. For the steep hill, I would be concerned for students that live on campus proper. I’ve been in the UMW Apartments for over a year now, so I think it’d be far more accessible for students who live there over going through multiple hills to get to DuPont.”

Miller also noted the difficulty of navigating the steep hill every day. 

“The location of Marshall Hall was one of my least favorite things about the place, though; that big, steep hill was really annoying to climb up and down just to go to class or get food, so I barely left the building more than once a day just so I wouldn’t have to climb the hill,” she said.

The new building is only in the conceptual phase, but the administration assures that it will have many features that will lead the department in the right direction. They believe the new location will be more beneficial in the long run for the department.

“It is still a little too soon to be very specific on the features of the building, but I can say that not only will we be able to accommodate larger audiences, but the systems will all be modern technology that will serve us well,” said Director of Marketing and Audience Services Jon Reynolds.

Reynolds, a graduate of UMW’s Theatre program in 2007, is excited for this change of location and for the students and faculty to have a new and better space as theatre majors. He believes that the transition between new and old locations will be seamless for both students and community audience members, so long as they continue marketing and broadcasting this change in the coming years. 

“With the increase in the capacity of the theatre and the larger building in general … will hopefully come larger audiences, and with larger audiences comes greater need for parking, larger bathrooms, lobby space and more,” said Reynolds. “We have very smart and competent people working on this project that will take every consideration into account.”

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