Detroit Mercy working to bring black box theater to campus

With the eventual demolition of Reno Hall, the University of Detroit Mercy is planning on not only replacing the rehearsal space, but bringing a black box theater to the McNichols campus, according to Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Education (CLAE). 

Reno Hall is home to the departments of Counseling and Addiction Studies as well as Psychology, along with their clinics. It is also home to the rehearsal space and costume shop for Performing Arts. 

When Reno Hall is demolished, many of the spaces will move to other parts of the campus but a new rehearsal space for the Detroit Mercy Theatre Company will be needed here on campus. However, this need for a new rehearsal space could bring a black box theater to campus instead.

The plan to transition from creating a rehearsal space to the black box theater emerged in Fall 2022. During last year, conversations with many different parties were held. They all seemed to agree that a black box theater, a space that can be multifaceted, would be the best way to move forward. 

Boryczka said, “Where the black box theater currently stands is that we are working with an architectural firm, and we have already met with them. They are thinking about all of the needs we have for that space, and of course, the specifics of the building, the amount of space that we have in that area, and how we can meet a variety of different needs including those for differently abled people and how they can access the space.” 

Boryczka also said that she hopes for further conversations before Christmas and right now they plan on having renderings, being developed by the architectural firm, ready by the 2024 Winter semester.

 The location of the theater is planned to be in the lower level of the Student Union, which recently went under extensive renovations to modernize the space. The theater will also serve as a space for other groups and events. 

“Students are thirsting for places to be together to do an improv group, maybe have an acoustic group or vocal group or whatever they want to do,” Boryczka said. 

She also notes that while maintaining a partnership with the Boll Theater is important, it is equally as important to bring a great culture and art center here to campus as it is something that this part of Detroit needs. The goal is to also open this part of the University to the rest of the community, a move that will certainly generate traffic and revenue to the campus whenever there isn’t a play being performed. 

Boryczka said, “We’ve got four amazing neighborhoods right here, and we have great partnerships with many of the block clubs, the neighborhood organizations, and different community organizations right in this area. We would see them bringing their young people to a production like Frog and Toad. We’ve already been inviting some of the block clubs in the area to have a night down at the theater with UDM.”

The next phase of the black box theater project will involve the fundraising campaign which will occur once renderings are finalized. At this time, there is no set date for when the theater will come to campus. The Detroit Mercy Theater Company, for now, will continue to perform its award-winning productions at the Marlene Boll Theater in downtown Detroit.