Earlier this year, Wayne State’s Board of Governors approved a plan to expand the Hilberry Theatre and permanently close the Bonstelle Theatre.
The Hilberry will be renamed the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center. Following renovations, the center will provide students with performance labs, design studios and a main stage.
“This expansion has been talked about for nearly 10 years,” said Matthew Seeger, dean of the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts. “This is really exciting and we are very thankful for President Wilson, the Board of Governors and the donors.”
Once the expansion is completed, the Bonstelle will be decommissioned and no longer be used by performing arts students. All performing arts programs will be moved to the new Hilberry complex, Seeger said.
Some students have voiced dissatisfaction with the university’s decision.
“The Bonstelle has history. Why not update it? I think the money should be going somewhere else,” said Gabrielle Heabeart, a WSU dance student. “I find the whole (Hilberry expansion) thing unnecessary.”
Seeger said the Bonstelle did not get an approved expansion because of the building’s old age and high cost to renovate.
“It was just not an efficient building to invest in, unlike the Hilberry,” said Seeger.
Other students were excited about the expansion.
“The decommissioning of the Bonstelle is a little bit sad because it’s such a beautiful building, but I’m excited that all the performing arts will be closer to main campus,” said Kathleen Keyes, a senior vocal education major.
Seeger said the BOG’s plan will bring together the performing arts and help create synergy between all departments.
“The expansion plans to unite all the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts, and that is very important to me as a music student because there hasn’t been much effort to unite them before,” said Keyes. “There will be more opportunities to work together and enjoy each other’s arts.
“I think students will form closer connections and I think students will spend more time on campus after this expansion. Students of all majors will have a new place to hang out and support their fellow (performing and fine arts) Warriors.”
However, Heabeart said she doesn’t believe the space will provide much for dance majors.
“The Bonstelle is the only place out of the two theatres that dancers have to perform in front of a large crowd,” Heabeart said. “The Hilberry has always been strictly for theatre majors.
“Unless dancers are suddenly allowed to use the space, the expansion will only benefit theatre majors.”
Seeger said when the BOG passed the expansion project, students cheered.
Heabeart does not share the sentiment Seeger said students showed.
“[WSU's] dance program is one of the top departments in the nation, so why aren’t we getting the same benefits and projects?” she said.
Despite rumors that the Bonstelle will be transformed to a hotel, there are currently no plans for what will happen to the theatre, Seeger said.
“I don’t know where those rumors came from but nothing is for certain at the moment,” he said. “It’s the university’s property and I don’t know what they plan to do with it.”
Susana Hernandez is a staff writer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.