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MSU Billings Foundation Receives $20,000 Award from Charles M. Bair Family Trust to Upgrade Lighting System in Petro Theatre

May 9, 2007

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICE – The Montana State University Billings Foundation announced that it has received a challenge grant of $20,000 from the Charles M. Bair Family Trust to help upgrade the 40-year-old lighting system in Petro Theatre with a new $40,000 Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) system.  An additional $20,000 must be raised to match the Bair grant and to complete the upgrade.  Petro Theatre is located in the MSU Billings Student Union Building.

The limitations of the old lighting system negatively impact artistic decisions on use of Petro Theatre.  Some theater productions, including popular musicals, which are excellent training vehicles for theatre students, have been rejected by directors and designers because the required lighting cannot be supplied.

The new ETC system the Charles M. Bair Family Trust grant will help fund is one of the most respected and commonly-installed lighting systems in assembly spaces today, and is the standard among many multi-use space operators.  From an educational standpoint, the new system offers a wealth of possibilities for theater and other events.  In 2006, 48 events were held in Petro Theater, attended by a combined audience of nearly 12,000 people

The performing arts comprise an important focus of excellence at MSU Billings. Petro Theater is the central learning and student training venue for approximately 300 theater students each year, in addition to a broad slate of community informational and entertainment programs. It has served as a popular community venue since its construction in 1967. The auditorium serves the multi-purpose needs of the university, including everything from annual Convocation exercises to student variety shows; the production needs of an active theater program; and the needs of the public for local and regional community programs.

“Our current and future students are our leaders of tomorrow, so providing opportunities for these students to develop, test, and employ their skills and talents is integral to the future vitality of MSU Billings and the greater Montana community, ” said Marilynn Miller.  “The new lighting system will enhance this venue for community productions as well as university use.”

 This is the third grant the MSU Billings Foundation has received in recent years from the Charles M. Bair Family Trust, which awarded $20,000 in 2004 to upgrade the recording studio in Cisel Recital Hall, and $30,776 in 2003 toward the purchase of two grand pianos for the MSU Billings music program, which boasts one of the largest piano programs in Montana.

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