Photos and captions by Erik Fallis,
Edwin Lockwood and CSU Fullerton
“I love empty theatres because they are so full of possibility,” said Joseph Arnold, dean of the College of Arts at CSU Fullerton.
The entire world may be a stage. However, many actors, musicians, dancers, directors and designers experience moments when other considerations fall away and the stage becomes their whole world. Those moments leave a lasting impression, something Arnold reflects on as he leads a tour through the CSUF Clayes Performing Arts Center.
Opened in 2006, the Clayes Center adds a combined 1,200 seats for performance venues in the James D. Young Studio Theatre, Hallberg Theatre and Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall (above). This is in addition to the 500 seats in the “Little” Theatre as well as dance and musical theatre studios. The center also includes dedicated spaces for set design, costume and makeup.
Ever the “working dean,” Arnold continues to direct productions of students and faculty. Asked to do the equivalent of picking his favorite child, Arnold admits his preferred space is the Young Theatre with its thrust design that brings a unique closeness between the performer and audience. The venue is named for the founding chair of the Theatre and Dance Department who remains active on campus.
A performance of A Prayer for Owen Meany brings the intimate setting of the 250-seat Young Theatre to life. The option of three different theatre styles (thrust, in-the-round and proscenium) in the Clayes Center allows students to explore different blocking and to understand what the space demands of an actor. This underscores the Clayes’ primary function as an academic facility.
Arnold shows the behind-the-scenes spaces often hidden from the audience. Masks from various performances line the expansive makeup lab (left). Adjacent to the makeup lab is a costume shop (right) saturated in natural light to give the fabrics their true color.
Students and faculty create the amazing settings for performances in the Clayes Center. Freshman Analisa Peters and sophomore Anna Barajas work in the Scenic Lab. Both theatre arts majors are pursuing a design/technical production emphasis.
Dancers have an extra spring to their step in the Clayes Center. The floors of dance studios absorb some of the shock of landing jumps, preserving feet and joints. The new spaces also have higher ceilings, allowing dancers to practice and perform lifts and other aerial techniques.
The diva of the Clayes Center is the 800-seat Meng Concert Hall. The hall boasts outstanding acoustics optimized to give the audience the experience of unobstructed sound. The entire hall can be “tuned” using ceiling mounts and wall panels. The distinctive cones bounce the sound as waves pass through the hall. The grand hall also features a grand instrument — a historic organ tied to famous organist E. Power Biggs.