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College Receives Grant to Enhance Custer Theatre

Franklin College received a $30,500 grant from the Clarence E. Custer and Inez R. Custer Foundation of Columbus, Ind., to equip Custer Theatre with a quality sound system, projector and screen capability.

The generous gift will not only enhance vocal and instrumental concerts but will also be utilized by faculty for academic courses and by the college community to host large guest speaker and public programs. Installation of the new system is underway with a targeted completion date of early March 2017.

“Due to the awarding of the Custer Foundation grant for improvements in the theatre, our students will now be able to have amplified sound on the stage with a state-of-the-art speaker system and a locked-control system that is mounted on the side of the stage,” said Casey Hayes, Ph.D., A.J. Thurston chair of music, music department chair and director of choral activities.

“In the past, if we needed sound amplification, we relied upon an antiquated pair of speakers hauled in and plugged into a guitar amp mixer and a single microphone. The Custer Foundation grant allows for us to continue to give Franklin College students the performance experiences that they deserve with a quality sound system that not only records rehearsals and concerts, but allows for the display of audio-visual productions as well,” explained Hayes.

Franklin College has maintained a long-standing collaborative relationship with the Custer Foundation representatives since its inception. Clarence and Inez Custer’s son, William Ruddick Custer, attended Franklin College in the early 1930s, and the foundation has made generous gifts in his memory. The most significant was a grant awarded in 1988 after a tragic accidental fire destroyed Old Main, the college’s central academic and administrative building. The Custer grant was used to construct a “jewel box” theatre. The beautiful space, featuring a wooden proscenium stage and seating for 226 audience members (including balcony seating) and historic floor to ceiling stained-glass windows, was named in honor of the Custer family. The college refurbished the stage in summer 2016.

Today, the Custer Theatre is used as the recital hall for musical groups, the rehearsal venue for theatre performances and the experiential classroom for arts appreciation courses.

“Custer Theatre occupies a prized location in the heart of Old Main, and in the hearts of the Franklin College community,” said Franklin College President Thomas J. Minar, Ph.D. “With space at a premium on a small campus, the college works hard to make the best possible use of each location. This gift will allow for this prime space to be meaningfully used during the day by our students and professors as well as enjoyed by our performers and our patrons during evening performances. The college is very grateful to the Custer Foundation.”

Franklin College looks forward to unveiling the new system to the public during the college’s spring music concerts. All music performances are free and open to the public. Upcoming events include a chamber concert at 7 p.m. on April 11, two choral concert performances at 7 p.m. on May 5 and at 2 p.m. on May 6 and an instrumental concert at 7 p.m. on May 9.

For more information, contact the Franklin College Office of Marketing and Communications at (317) 738-8185.

(Posted March 1, 2017)

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