NIU School of Theatre and Dance host Stevens Building grand opening

Anthropology Department Chairperson Kendall Thu, President Lisa Freeman and others discuss the Stevens Building at the Grand opening Friday.

By Sophia Mullowney

DeKALB — NIU faculty, staff, alumni and students gathered Friday at the Stevens Building to celebrate its reopening. Cocktails and appetizers were served, guests were given a tour of the building and the School of Theatre and Dance presented Sam Shepard’s play “True West” for attendees.

The event marked the first full use of the facility in five years after renovations were halted following a budget impasse. The School of Theatre and Dance and the Department of Anthropology now occupy Stevens with many new performance spaces, classrooms, workshops, labs, offices and resources.

Students enrolled in the School of Theatre and Dance said the features were a welcome surprise after previously working in cramped areas all over campus. Senior dance performance major Fiona McGrath Nagle said she was grateful for the space, specifically the new costume shop.

“Coming from Grant, we didn’t have much room,” McGrath Nagle said. “Here, we have so much space; we can actually get things done. It’s easier here because we’re not on top of each other.”

Junior acting major Mikkel Knutson said he appreciated the unification of productions the Stevens Building has brought.

“There’s a lot more ease with each part of the show,” Knutson said. “We can collaborate a lot easier.”

Kendall Thu, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, said he enjoyed the fanfare of the evening and is eager to see what the building has to offer.

“I think it’s a moment of celebration for the campus,” Thu said. “It’s a way for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, and I think it represents a challenge for us to move farther ahead [and] to build on what we have.”

President Lisa Freeman said the Stevens Building has come to symbolize the enduring strength of NIU.

“This building tells everybody we’re no longer looking back; we’re looking forward, and it’s beautiful,” Freeman said.

Freeman also said the building presented opportunities for NIU students to get involved in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Theatre and Dance. She said all students should consider taking anthropology courses or attending future performances in the building.

Many alumni, former faculty and staff from both departments were in attendance to view the facility. Randall Newsom, former dance program coordinator and professor from the School of Theatre and Dance, said the reopening has been a long time coming.

“When I was hired back here in 1979, they said, ‘No, we’re gonna start it in 1980,’” Newsom said. “I retired in 2009, and they finally got it started after that. At least we got it done. I think it’s stunning.”