MSSU set to start half million dollar project to fix Taylor Auditorium

Auditorium has been closed since September 2019
Crack in a concrete wall

JOPLIN, Mo. – In the theatre, the show must go on.

But that’s something that’s been more difficult for the Missouri Southern State University theatre department.

“It’s pretty bad. I mean, cause we don’t get, you know, as much space to do certain shows,” says Senior Hulon Smith.

In April of 2018, an inspection found that the rigging system above the stage in Taylor Auditorium was unsafe. While working to replace the system in September of 2019, crews found a new problem… several large cracks in walls that impacted the auditorium’s structural integrity.

“When they stood on.. above the crack, they could reach up with their hand and push the wall and actually move the wall,” says MSSU Construction and Risk Manager Bob Harrington.

Harrington explains the problem was caused by a design flaw. The almost 65-foot tall walls were constructed with two layers of four-inch thick concrete and weren’t secured to the metal frame of the building, so they’re free-floating.

“If that same building would be built today, instead of using four-inch concrete blocks, they would use either eight or twelve-inch concrete blocks. And at that point they would be tied to the metal structure,” says Harrington. “Between the weather and everything else, I think it is the block has separated and we’ve found a good way to go back and make sure it’s structurally sound.”

The school is getting ready to bid the 500-thousand dollar repair project out to contractors. The goal will be to put steel beams in the walls to give them more integrity, as well as replace the bricks that are cracked.

“That facility’s used a great deal by the community for other events and we’re looking forward to being able to get it back in full service for us and the community,” says Harrington.

In the meantime, the theatre department has had to move their productions elsewhere on campus and to the Joplin High School.

“I think we’ve made it to where it’s not that noticeable. Our seniors and juniors, of course, are very noticeable about it. Freshman, it’s been this way for them,” says Theatre Department Chair Erick Wolfe. “But they’re all excited about where everything’s going and the growth of everything.”

Smith explains that performing somewhere different can make it more difficult, but he likes it because it keeps him on his toes.

“It makes you feel creative as a director to see how.. how would you do it in an arena versus in a proscenium with certain shows that you couldn’t picture in an arena, but you do it anyway,” says Smith.

School officials hope to have Taylor Auditorium re-opened by the spring semester in 2021.

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