Clark University’s renovation of Little Center/Michelson Theater has been made the recipient of a major gift that will help breathe new life into the 54-year-old building.
Clark Trustee Vickie Riccardo, P ’17, and her husband Don Spencer have pledged $2 million toward the creation of the Riccardo & Spencer Lobby, a vibrant, art-filled lobby and reception area that will welcome audience members to the hub of Clark’s student theatricals.
“Don and I are very pleased to support theater arts at Clark University,” Riccardo said. “Performance builds self-confidence and brings joy to performers and their audience. Enhancing — actually, transforming — the Michelson Theater for the Clark community can benefit everyone. We hope others will join us in supporting Clark University by also making gifts to projects around the campus as they are announced.”
President David Fithian hailed the gift as instrumental to the project and as a potential catalyst for additional support for modernizing Clark’s facilities.
“We are incredibly grateful to be the beneficiaries of Vickie and Don’s generosity and their clear love for theater at Clark,” he said. “It’s with a real sense of excitement that we’re reenergizing and reimagining one of our long-time buildings into a space that will have direct impact on our University community. I look forward to the day when we’ll be gathered in the Riccardo & Spencer Lobby, anticipating another wonderful production by Clark students.”
Jeff Gillooly, vice president for university advancement, noted that “as Clark parents, Vickie and Don continually led the way through our recent campaign with their generosity and support. Now, they are leading the way in Clark’s next chapter.
“Vickie models true trustee leadership in support of this critical project for the arts at Clark,” he continued. “I know Vickie and Don’s example will open the doors for many more to follow as we work together to build a new future for the University.”
The Riccardo & Spencer Lobby will be a significant component to the Little Center/Michelson Theater project, which will feature replacement seating in the black box theater, a renovated dressing room, refurbished office spaces, upgraded audiovisual and lighting equipment, and substantial upgrades to the electrical and air conditioning systems. The entire building also is being made handicapped-accessible, including with the installation of an elevator.
Construction work began this summer, and the building is scheduled to be ready for use by next June. Until then, student performances are being staged in Atwood Hall.
Gino DiIorio, a longtime professor of theater at Clark, said he’s eager to see the Michelson Theater restored as “a cultural center for the University” that will support student events like the biennial PlayFest and performances by improv and music groups, as well as play host to visiting musical, theater, and dance troupes. This “friendly old ghost” of a building, as DiIorio affectionately describes it, is more than ready for its next act.
“I can see this place being booked week after week after week,” DiIorio said. “The audience experience will be so much better; much more welcoming.”
He’s looking forward to the new lobby as well.
“I envision it as a place where we can hang student art and display production photos,” he said. “It will be great to see this space become something special for Clark theater.”