COA's renovated lobby draws applause

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Richard Merrick (right), a regular performer in College of The Albemarle's theater program's performances, serves hors d’oeuvres to Louise Wilson during an event to unveil the COA Performing Arts Center's lobby renovations to the public, Thursday. More than half of COA's $625,000 Performing Arts Center upgrade project went toward the cost of new construction in the lobby area. About 100 theater-goers and members of the public attended Thursday's event.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, August 18, 2018

College of The Albemarle welcomed about 100 theater patrons and other members of the public to the newly renovated lobby at the college’s Performing Arts Center Thursday evening.

Annya Soucy was among those impressed with the lobby’s new look. She said the lobby’s new ticket window is a great feature.

“I think it looks clean and contemporary and inviting. It looks great,” Soucy said.

Jennifer Purcell was seeing the lobby for the first time, and liked what she saw.

“I think it’s beautiful,” Purcell said.

COA completed the lobby renovations, part of a $625,000 upgrade of the Performing Arts Center, in late spring, The project was mostly funded with NC Connect Bond funds approved by voters several years ago.

More than half of the $625,000 Performing Arts Center upgrade project went toward the cost of new construction in the lobby area. The new construction included a new ceiling; new lighting and controls; painting; new guard rails on the entrance ramp; carpeting; electrical and plumbing work; and heating and cooling system ductwork.

The entire lobby area is newly carpeted, and the new carpet also extends down the hallways leading to the auditorium seating area

The COA Board of Trustees voted in 2017 to use $549,000 in NC Connect Bond funds toward the PAC lobby renovation project.

Taylor Sugg, chairman of the Board of Directors of the COA Foundation, said the first thing that caught his eye when he walked into the renovated lobby was the large sign that announces the facility as the COA Performing Arts Center.

The lobby conveys a sense of professionalism, according to many at Thursday’s opening.

“It feels ‘big city,’” Sugg said.

Sugg said he likes the new “open look” that has been achieved partly by replacing the opaque panels along the wheelchair ramp with transparent panels.

John Maurice, president of Mid-Atlantic Christian University, said the lobby makes a strong first impression.

“It looks like a real theater,” Maurice said. “It looks like a brand new theater that you would see in New York or Nashville or someplace.”

Mariah Schierer, manager of COA”s Performing Arts Center, said it was exciting to welcome theater patrons to the renovated lobby.

Among those helping host the gathering by serving hors d’oeuvres to guests was Richard Merrick, 25, of Sunbury, who is portraying Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in COA’s upcoming presentation of “Annie.” Over the past couple of years Merrick has performed in a number of plays at COA, including turns as Col. Pickering in “My Fair Lady” and one of the princes in “Into the Woods.”

Merrick first began appearing in plays while he was living in Florida and has continued to enjoy the theater since coming to North Carolina. He said what he enjoys most is “working with my friends onstage” and the reward of a positive audience response to good work on a show.

Like the guests, Merrick gave the lobby renovations a thumbs up.

“They certainly look very nice,” Merrick said.

After a reception in the lobby guests were treated to a brief performance in the auditorium, including musical numbers from “Annie” and other shows in the upcoming season, including “Camelot,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Hello, Dolly.”