The next ‘Room Where It Happens:’ New theatre arts building in progress

Construction continues for the new theatre arts building on the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus on April 7, 2024. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

After moving out of their old home in Hecht Residential College and conducting classes and rehearsals in a former church on Red Road, UM theatre students will finally get a new classroom building.

Designed by Mateu Architecture, the building is set to be 15,000 square feet with two stories, a performance space, concessions areas, classrooms, dressing rooms, a student lounge, an IT center and a small black box theatre.

The complex is already in construction and is set to be finished before the spring 2025 semester.

Formerly located in Hecht Residential College, the theatre department had to find an alternative location after the residential college was torn down in May of 2022.

For the past two years, theatre students have been trekking to class in the renovated First United Methodist Church on Red Road and Ponce de Leon, right across from the Red Road Commons Apartments.

While this is a nearby location for students living in the adjacent apartments, the closest UM shuttle stops are 5-10 minute walks away, making the location inconvenient for those with classes on the main campus.

“I miss walking around campus, getting food and seeing other students outside our program,” said Maggie Rabitsch, a junior majoring in musical theatre.

Ian Luk, a musical theatre junior, noted that having classes so close together means theatre students often run into each other, something that contributes to the family-like environment of the BFA program.

“It does feel a bit cramped at times, but overall it’s been decently positive,” Luk said.

A recent $3 million donation from UM alumna Jayne Baron Sherman, an award-winning producer in theater, film and television, will go toward the new building’s facilities, as well as future UM Theatre productions and maintenance for the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.

The name might ring a bell because the Alvin Sherman Family Stage in the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre is named for her late father’s generous donation.

“As someone who dreams of being a professional in the entertainment industry, a donation like this means the world to me,” said Isabella Letorney, a freshman majoring in musical theatre. “I’m so incredibly happy that it will also give us more freedom, benefits and new opportunities for the already amazing productions the theatre arts program puts on.”

Students look forward to the various amenities that the new building offers.

“I think I’m most excited about the green room that they’re adding,” Luk said. “That was one of the best parts of operating out of Hecht because we could all gather in a common area and hang around while still inside. It’s a feature that’s sorely missed at the Red Roads building.”

Letorney is especially excited about the building’s dance space.

“Dancing in a much more spacious studio gives us the opportunity to explore grander choreography and become stronger dancers, considering we have more room to move,” Letorney said.

Students in the theatre department have shared nothing but pride and excitement about the expansion of their facilities.

Letorney expressed that students in the BFA program are ready for a new space.

“I think the new building symbolizes the University’s value for the arts within campus culture,” Letorney said.

“I am beyond excited for the new theatre arts building,” Rabitsch said. “Not only does it look stunning, but I cannot wait to return to campus for my senior year.”