“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” Opera screening at reopening of Presentation Theater
After a five-year closure, the Presentation Theater’s curtains have opened again. USF community members gathered on Friday, Feb. 2 in the newly renovated theater for a screening of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” a novella-turned-opera composed by Gordon Getty.
Getty, a USF alum, musician and founder of The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, financed the theater’s restorations with a $15 million donation. This is not his first contribution to USF. The Getty Scholars program grants funding each year for recipients of the J. Paul Getty Scholarship to use for educational enrichment purposes, such as study abroad immersion programs and research assistantships.
The opera tells the life story of beloved professor “Mr. Chips” as he goes through the world both teaching and learning from his students. It was originally a story written by James Hilton and was turned into a libretto by Getty. “Chips is all about optimism and the beauty of things,” Getty told the Foghorn. In an opening remark to the audience, he said the opera is “meant to make us believe in things again.”
The Presentation Theater, which is located in the Education Building, features design details such as ornate gold detailing on the walls and columns, as well as sconces featuring elaborately shaped ram’s heads and leaf patterns. Elegant orange curtains hang from the ceilings and intricately carved accents, also done in gold, frame each of the exits. The theater seats 430 guests between the main floor and the balcony.
As the Foghorn reported first in Aug. 2019 and then in Apr. 2022, the theater was initially closed due to safety renovations and American Disability Act compliant improvements.
The completed repairs include new chairs and carpeting and a wheelchair lift to the stage. Updates were also made to the alarm systems and the stage’s smoke hatches.
“I think it looks beautiful,” said first-year psychology student Mya Lopez, who performs in USF’s Performing Arts and Social Justice (PASJ) dance program. “The PASJ program will do their [dance] ensemble [show] here this semester. Everyone in the ensemble is super excited to get a bigger stage and be able to have more people come, because right now it’s really limited [in the Studio Theater]…This theater has a much bigger setup.”
The Getty Foundation’s gift will also allow for an endowed position, the Ann Getty Chair in the Arts, to continue to build USF’s art program, as well as an endowed student award, The Ann Getty Arts Scholarship.
On what this will lead to for students, President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., said to the Foghorn, “We will be able to expand studio art, design, architecture and performing arts in enhanced physical spaces across the University.”
The Presentation Theater is open in a limited capacity for performances, screenings, and events this semester. Stage two of the renovation process will continue into the summer, when new rigging and technical gear will be installed. The Foghorn will continue to report on developments to the theater and updates regarding further artistic expansions.
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