By the time audience members have settled in seats to await the opening scene of a Broadway play, much has happened behind the scenes to create the magic that captivates them.
Recent renovations at the Koger Center, which opened in 1989, have made sure that lots of magic can be performed on its stage.
Most of these are renovations audience members won’t be able to see or touch. But they will reap the benefits as more elaborate touring shows, such as “Wicked” and “Book of Mormon,” come to Columbia, while also allowing more increased abilities to local groups.
The major renovation was the installation of a new rigging grid this past summer. The project took three months to install and several years of planning. The new grid allows Koger Center to host larger Broadway shows that require highly complex scenery and lighting elements to be hung with precision over the stage.
“The grid installation means that we are now able to bring touring shows to Columbia that are comparable to what is on Broadway and not a pared down version of what you see in New York,” said Chip Wade, marketing director for Koger Center.
Koger Center also has increased the number of theatrical line sets, the moving pipes that carry the scenery and lighting elements for a production above the stage. The lines have increased from 42 to 47 with plans to add three more this summer.
The increased line sets also provide more flexibility to traditional theater and dance companies and have already been used by many local companies in their productions at the Koger Center.
“These renovations, however, are just part of a vision that we have to be able to enhance what is already happening in Columbia while at the same time being able to bring new and exciting performances to the Midlands,” Wade said. “Our goal is to not just to continue providing a home for great performances in Columbia, but to enhance the community by offering new opportunities to bring entertainment and culture that our previous system couldn’t accommodate.”
To that end, the Koger Center converted its donor room into The Upstairs Gallery, where it currently displays “Ethereal Plumage,” a photography exhibit by local artist James Henderson.
On March 20, the Koger Center hosted its first “Live in the Lobby” performance, a collaboration with ColaJazz featuring the Mark Rapp Group in a celebration of Marian McPartland of NPR’s Piano Jazz. This performance made use of the Koger Center’s Grand Tier lobby as the performance location, taking advantage of the expanse of windows to watch the sunset happen throughout the performance.
The “Live In the Lobby” series has three more concerts scheduled this year which allow audiences to interact with the performers in a way that isn’t possible in an auditorium setting.
“We are on our way to having a full series of exciting, new works brought in from outside Columbia to compliment the great art that’s already happening here in the city,” said Nate Terracio, director of The Koger Center for the Arts. “I hope that in five years, we will really be living up to the name Koger Center for the Arts. We will find ourselves at the center of the arts scene here, not only the performing arts, but the arts as a whole — visual arts, the humanities, etc. Everywhere culture collides here in Columbia, we want to find ourselves in a position where we are helping make that happen.”