Among the most technologically advanced community colleges in the US, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) has completed a significant renovation of its Science Center, and the creation of a new 563-seat theatre. Responsible for for the acoustics, audio, rigging, lighting and video systems design, as well as the reconfiguration of the original space, was the WSDG (Walters-Storyk Design Group).

Renovation of the Science Building and theatre construction commenced in 2019, just as Covid-19 pushed the work into chaos. WSDG’s experience in remote global design collaboration allowed company Partner/Director of Production, Romina Larregina, to coordinate the effort to generate plans for every facet of the theatre. A comprehensive demolition, renovation and reconstruction work schedule was launched, and the project moved into high gear in 2020. The new theatre became the anchor for rebranding MCCC’s Arts and Culture Departments as the Montco Cultural Center.

Montgomery County Community CollegeWSDG Project Manager/Systems Designer Sergio Molho reports that the redesigned theatre was conceived as a multi-purpose venue capable of facilitating live theatrical performances concerts and lectures, as well as screenings of films and educational videos on projection screens hung from the ceiling and mounted in front of the stage. The project was completed in the spring of 2023 and has earned its place as a focal point for campus and community activities.

‘When I consider the architecture involved, I think the biggest change was the acoustical direction the architects were taking. That was changed early in the design phase,’ says Celeste Schwartz, Vice President of MCCC Pottstown Campus, Information Technology and Institutional Effectiveness, who oversaw the construction of the theatre project.

‘We discussed our options and preferences in great detail before we decided exactly what we were going to do. Once we made those decisions, they didn’t change,’ adds MCCC Director of Sound Recording & Music Technology, David Ivory. ‘We were particularly concerned with sound delivery to the newly imagined Sky Boxes, and with WSDG’s guidance those acoustic issues were resolved.’

‘The new balcony represents one of the major accomplishments of the entire redesign programme,’ says MCCC Senior Director of Arts and Culture, Brent Woods. ‘The physical changes were dramatic; the original building was constructed 50 years ago, but now we’ve got left and right-side sky boxes with 24 seats in each, and an additional 15 seats in the VIP section.

‘The orchestra seats 500, so we went from a 398-seat house total to 563 seats which is a substantial gain. In addition to new performance opportunities for the campus and community, the newly renovated theatre will provide real-world learning experiences for students.’

‘We made a point of selecting first tier gear for this theatre. For example, our live mixing console is a DiGiCo SD7T, which is designed specifically for live theatre sound mixing. This means our students are being trained on extremely contemporary technology,’ Ivory says. ‘They’ll be shooting and editing video as well as recording and mixing audio performances, and that’s going to make a difference when they interview for professional jobs. Our theatre will provide invaluable opportunities for students to engage in professional production.’

‘WSDG proved to be an extremely professional organisation, and I found them very easy to work with,’ Schwartz says. ‘They listened to problems we encountered, and they solved them. Back in 2018 Romina Larregina had worked closely with MCCC Music Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Sound Recording and Music Technology, Michael Kelly and SRT Director David Ivory to develop our new recording studio. That project was a great success and led to our decision to return to them for this new assignment. We were confident in their level of professionalism and commitment, and they did not disappoint.’

DIGICO SD7T ‘We all have different areas of expertise,’ Ivory points out. ‘I’m very tuned into music recording and mixing. Brent is our theatre expert. None of us is shy about asking questions, and WSDG was extremely helpful in explaining and clarifying. I was particularly impressed with Romina’s vast technical knowledge and with Sergio Molho’s design work and enthusiasm. All the WSDG people who came out to perform tests and other highly technical work them were simply terrific.’

Woods concurs: ‘This was the first time I’ve ever gone through a process like this. Watching the WSDG team come up with answers and creative solutions was impressive. Observing Celeste [Schwartz] as she guided people through the theatre and listening to David [Ivory] collaborate with WSDG as they‘tuned the room’s acoustics was not just an education, it was genuinely exciting.’

‘What really capped this experience for me was what happened at its conclusion.’ Schwartz concludes. ‘I watched Sergio Molho take a Punch List walk throughout the complex. He was spot-on, alerting the tech team folks, (not WSDG), the support staff, the rigging, construction and installation people to everything from missing faceplates to unfastened wires. He pointed out every detail that needed to be addressed in an extremely professional way.’

‘The ultimate compliment to any professional is to have a satisfied client invite you back for a second or third project,’ says WSDG founding partner John Storyk. ‘MCCC is the perfect example of that situation. Our first commission in 2018 was a recording studio Control Room/Mixing Studio. They had selected an ideal location for the room. Romina Larregina and the rest of our design team came up with the right design solutions, and the entire project was a case study in timing and execution. That’s the goal we always strive to reach.’


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