Renovation Reimagines Mid-Century Theater Facility

Leers Weinzapfel Associates transforms the mid-century theater into theatrical teaching, performance, and support spaces for a new generation of students at Salem State University.

Leers Weinzapfel Associates transforms the mid-century theater into theatrical teaching, performance, and support spaces for a new generation of students at Salem State University.

The renovation of the Sophia Gordon Creative & Performing Arts Center, completed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, transforms a mid-century theater facility into theatrical teaching, performance, and support spaces for a new generation of students. Originally constructed in 1958 as a general use auditorium on a developing campus, the 650-seat Mainstage Theater building was ripe for reimagining, no longer meeting the current needs of the theater department and the university.

The design for the project reflects the departmental goals at Salem State University and maximizes the program space within the existing building shell by providing a balcony in the theater. The public approaches a transformed exterior terrace and enters a lobby, which leads to a 490-seat theater with a balcony and galleries. The theater affords good sightlines and ceiling height, providing an enveloping space for student performance and instruction. The program also includes a rehearsal room, green room, dressing rooms, scene shop, sound lab, light lab, prop storage, conference spaces, and an art display area.

The project creates a cohesive learning environment for the theater department; provides a space for performing arts and community connection; enhances opportunities for an array of academic and cultural events; creates a new face and experience for the Salem State community, potential students and visitors; connects to the evolving campus quadrangle; and increases the visibility of the theater department and its productions.

The renovation meets the current needs of the theater department and the university.

The renovation meets the current needs of the theater department and the university.


The renovation of the existing building is, by itself, a sustainable act that not only breathes life back into the structure but also increases the vitality of the immediate neighborhood. This renewal project will achieve LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Additionally, the project is required to comply with MA Executive Order 484, providing 20 percent better than code energy performance.

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