Custer Theatre receives grant for updates, renovations

The college got a $30,500 grant to equip Custer Theatre with a new, quality sound system, projector and screen capability. 

Custer Theatre is located in Old Main and is used as a recital hall for musical groups, a rehearsal space for theatre performances and an experiential classroom for various art courses. 

The grant was given to the college by the Clarence E. Custer and Inez R. Custer Foundation. 

The college has had a long-standing relationship with the foundation, ever since William Ruddick Custer—the son of the people the foundation is named after—attended the college in the early 1930s. 

Since then, the foundation has been making big donations for his memory. 

Before now, the most significant award the college got from the foundation was the original construction of Custer Theatre in 1988 after a fire devastated Old Main. 

The money was used to build a “jewel box” theater, featuring a wooden stage and seating for 226 audience members, including balcony seating and historic floor-to ceiling stained-glass windows. 

“With space at a premium on a small campus, the college works hard to make the best possible use of each location,” said President Thomas Minar in a recent press release. “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.” 

To Casey Hayes, music department chair and director of choral activities, it comes as no surprise that this grant is being used to fix the problems with the theater’s sound. 

“We have had in the past, if we need sound amplification, we relied upon an antiquated pair of speakers hauled in and plugged into a guitar amp mixer and a single microphone,” Hayes said. “The Custer Foundation grant allows 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.” 

Installation of the new system is underway, with a targeted completion date this month. 

The new system will be ready for various spring music performances, including an upcoming chamber concert at 7 p.m. on April 11. 

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