Nearly two years after breaking ground, the reconstruction of Palomar College’s Howard Brubeck Theatre is now complete.
The overhaul, which cost an estimated $17 million, was financed by Proposition M, the voter-approved 2006 resolution to allocate $694 million to revamp and maintain Palomar College’s San Marcos campus.
Heather Murray, Box Office Manager for the Performing Arts Department, said the rebuilt theater will be vastly improved over its predecessor, which was built in 1978, and suffered many issues including substandard acoustics and water infiltration.
Murray recalled initial planning meetings from six years ago in which she and other theater officials were asked by architects for a dream list of renovations for the theater – the majority of which they were able to deliver.
“We really got 80 percent of our dream list. We got a beautiful building that works,” Murray said.
Chief among the changes on this list were revisions to the original seating arrangement, which consisted of 389 seats, 19-inch-wide seats that were considered cramped. Many seats on the left and rightmost edges suffered from poor sightlines, while viewers in the first row sat with their kneesnearly touching the stage.
These issues were addressed by improving the seat layout, reducing the total seats to 261 to allow for wider, more comfortable seats and aisles.
Furthermore, revisions were made to the incline of the seat rows to give members of the audience a less interrupted view over those in front of them.
Finally, the lower level of seats was raised slightly, providing the viewers in those rows with a more direct line of sight to the performers.
“The relationship between the performance and the audience will be much closer,” said Randy Hoffman, the publicity and programs coordinator for the Performing Arts Department.
“It was like there was a wall between the audience and the stage… Now, the performance comes to you directly,” said Hoffman of the theater renovations.
Changes were also made to the orchestra pit, which Hoffman described as “just scary.” The original pit consisted of six hinged panels, each weighing several hundred pounds and requiring several hours and multiple people to bring up or down.
According to Jim Cooper, the theater’s shop foreman and lighting designer, the new orchestra pit has been built around a lift system designed by Canadian company Gala.
The new lift operates via spiraling, stainless steel columns and electric drive train, and can be raised or lowered in about a minute, according to Cooper.
Other updates to the theater incorporate state-of-the-art lighting, orchestra shells and a modern fly system.
In addition to the renovations of the theater itself, the Performing Arts complex benefited from a wide array of new learning and working spaces.
These spaces include an expanded costume shop and storage, added studio theater, two dance studios and large courtyard, as well as extra classroom space for performing arts courses.
“(It) looks like a professional theater now… This is nothing like what it used to be,” Hoffman said.
“This is all thanks to our voters saying yes,” added Murray, “and we appreciate it.”
For more information on the theater and its upcoming schedule, visit www2.palomar.edu/performingarts/, or contact the box office at 760-744-1150.