December 15, 2004
Once a small gymnasium, the Craig-Dorland Theatre became a jewel after renovations in 2002.
When the Black Box Theatre was added to the campus' Sarkeys Telecommunication Center, the Dorland Theatre in Shawnee Hall was less used and not as well maintained. Little more than a stage in an auditorium with damaged seats, Dorland Theatre was renamed and refurbished in 2002 with a major grant coming from the Cleo L. Craig Foundation.
Formerly the Rhetta May Dorland Theatre, the space was renamed in honor of the Cleo L. Craig Foundation of Shawnee. Trustees of the Craig Foundation provided initial leadership in OBU’s completion of funding for a $3.25 million renovation program of Raley Chapel, the Art Department and the theatre in Shawnee Hall.
Complete with a restructured and expanded stage area, a renovated balcony, new seating, new curtains, and new electrical, lighting, sound and rigging capabilities, the space houses theatre productions that have been performed in Sarkeys Telecommunication Center blackbox stage for the last decade.
Audience capacity for OBU theatre productions increased from 100 seats, currently available in the blackbox theatre, to over 200 seats. The theatre doubles as a lecture hall, providing an optimal auditorium for guest lecturers and speakers.
“The renovations to the theatre will strengthen and expand educational opportunities available to students interested in theatre and drama,” said John Patterson, senior vice president for development, when the curtain rose on the theatre. “OBU’s ability to recruit and retain theatre students will improve with the availability of more up-to-date training and facilities.”
The Craig Foundation selected OBU as recipient of a $300,000 grant early in the fall of 1999. That gift motivated support for the project from other sources, including gift commitments of $30,000, $250,00 and $500,000 from other foundations.
“They were instrumental in helping take the first step in meeting the terms of the Mabee Challenge grant,” Patterson said. “They were helpful at a critical time that helped us get to the end result.”
The foundation, formed from the estate of long-time Lawton banker Cleo L. Craig, consists of his son, chairman C.L., and trustees Helen Wood Craig, April Craig Stobbe, John C. Stobbe, Bryant W. Craig, and Kennette Ronck Craig. The private foundation’s purpose is to fulfill the philanthropic interests of the family.
The theatre had been the Rhetta May Dorland Theatre since 1956, named in honor of OBU’s first professor of speech and theatre. Prior to that it was the University theatre.