Penn announced Monday that it will be building a new performing arts theater next to the Annenberg Center.
The new theater will be named after Wharton Class of 1963 graduate and luxury footwear designer Stuart Weitzman as part of a “transformative gift” to the University, Penn Today reported. The 3,100-square-foot building, which is part of a $25-million renovation plan, is expected to have an audience capacity of 300 to 350 people and will connect to the south side of the Annenberg Center using a portion of the plaza between Locust Walk and Walnut Street.
“This is a pivotal project for the performing arts,” Penn President Liz Magill told Penn Today. “Naming the theater for Stuart honors his enduring commitment to Penn students, his love of the performing arts, and our shared desire to make the performing arts even more visible and widely accessible on campus and throughout the greater Philadelphia region.”
These renovations will mark the first significant expansion to the Annenberg Center — the headquarters of Penn Live Arts — since its construction in 1971.
The theater will include features such as a glass wall supporting both indoor and outdoor performances, state-of-the-art theater lighting combined with natural light sources, and a quadraphonic audio system, according to Penn Live Arts. It will serve as a new home for Penn’s music, theater, dance, and comedy groups for performances, workshops, and community programming.
Wharton senior and A Cappella Council Chair Jack Franklin said the announcement amounted to a “really big deal” for Penn’s performing arts council, as there is currently a moratorium on new groups joining the coalition due to a lack of available space.
“Right now, we have to make tough decisions around who gets to rehearse and perform where,” Franklin said. “With a new space like this, it would be really a game changer for us to be able to expand out to more groups as much as possible.”
The renovations will see the existing Montgomery Theatre renovated into a 115-seat film screening center and the current Annenberg Center Outdoor Plaza renovated and expanded into a new Campus Gateway to the Arts.
“The performing arts have always been an essential element of the Penn experience,” Weitzman, the new theater’s namesake, told Penn Today. “This new theater will convey, in a very tangible way, to student and professional performers alike, that their craft is valued, supported, and nurtured by Penn.”
Weitzman’s gifts to the University have also resulted in the Weitzman School of Design, Weitzman Plaza, and Weitzman Hall bearing his name.