Pitzer Renovates Aging Auditorium

By the middle of March, Pitzer College will be reaping the benefits of an improved, state-of-the-art auditorium.

Dubbed the George S. Benson Auditorium after one of the college’s founding trustees, the auditorium has been completely gutted and is being reconstructed with some of the finest advances in theater equipment.

“Since the old auditorium really wasn’t fit for many productions or performances, preparations for these things had to be done on an ad hoc basis,” said Pitzer Dean of Students Jim Marchant. “This won’t need to be the case anymore.”

The new auditorium will have 40 more seats for a total of 320, and the sprung stage floor area will expand by 50 percent. The renovations also include a $60,000 rear-view projector as well as light and sound capture areas, which are vestibules that connect the lobby to the auditorium entrances so that light and sound from performances are not completely lost when someone exits the auditorium.

Marchant said the renovations are environmentally conscious, although he added that “renovating a 50-year-old building is much more difficult to keep green than a new construction project.”

Nonetheless, Pitzer has incorporated recycled carpets, low-flow fixtures in the bathrooms, minimally volatile organic compounds, and drought-tolerant plants outside the auditorium.

“The economy has helped us to take advantage of the caliber of workmanship that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise,” Marchant said.

The architect commissioned to design the new auditorium also designed Scripps’s Garrison Theatre and Los Angeles’s new city hall and co-designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Pitzer has already begun booking events at Benson Auditorium, which will be able to accommodate types of performances that the older auditorium could not manage. Because of the sprung stage floor, which provides more cushioning to help dancers avoid joint damage, it will be able to host dance performances, as well as more lectures and interactive events due to new technological additions. The additional 2,000 square feet in the lobby will be used to host receptions.

“Having a new facility will hopefully bring in better events and will encourage more prominent speakers to visit,” Marchant said. “Before, the old auditorium was almost an embarrassment, and now it’ll be a source of pride since everyone’s going to want to host events here.”

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