Fundraising underway for black box theater project


Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1968, Alan Zadjel sat in his first Kenny Resinski class. Alan’s theater career at Saint Francis may have started there, in an old classroom with Kenny, but it didn’t end there.

From plays, to one-acts, to Midnight Christmas Mass scenes during the homily, to Shakespearian sonnets, Zadjel has performed at and for SFU again and again over the last half century.

Alumni like Zadjel understand the biggest struggle of doing a show at SFU: there’s not enough space. He recalls practicing all over campus, from under the museum to the JFK stage. He, along with many other SFU theater alums, have long desired a theater space to call home.

“I can relate to students,” Zadjel said. “I know how difficult it is to produce and direct and act in that small space.”

When Kenny Resinski died in 2013, Zadjel and other SFU alums turned to Kenny’s wife, Bonnie Resinski, all asking the same question: What can we do?

Two years before Kenny died, the Resinskis submitted a proposal to the Visions 2020 campaign. They had developed an idea for a black box theater. A space that would give theater arts its own building.

Bonnie’s first few proposals were rejected. In the 2016-17 academic year, however, SFU’s Office of Advancement recognized the idea as a “project of opportunity.”

“Father Malachi is 100 percent behind [the project],” said Vice President for Advancement Bob Crusciel. “He looks at fine arts as being historically important to SFU.”

After the theater concept was approved, Bonnie knew what the theater alumni could do for her.

She told them that her long-term goal was a black box theater. SFU’s Office of Advancement, Bonnie and other alumni believe this theater could provide a link between students and the community.

Crusciel compares the concept to the Bryce Jordan Center in State College – it’s not just used for basketball games. He believes a lot of events could happen at a black box theater at SFU throughout the year.“It will be a community treasure,” he said. “Not only will the University use it, but outside groups will as well.”

With the help of Advancement and an alumni board, fundraising and preliminary planning have begun. Advancement has a coded list of alums involved in theater, Alpha Psi Omega (Theater Honor Society), music and visual arts. About 750-800 alumni have been contacted to see if they would consider donating to the project.

Chris Collins, Class of ’73, serves as the point person for project funding. A lawyer who worked on the High Line project in New York, Collins brings fundraising knowledge and theater expertise to the project.

Though definitive plans have not been laid out, the vision for the theater includes a black room with 100 to 200 seats, as well as dressing rooms.

“It would allow intimacy between the audience and performers,” Bonnie says. “We don’t really need seats for hordes of people.”

The theater would likely be built where the current Physical Plant building is located. It will complete the “Fine Arts Complex,” which includes the Boiler House and Art Garage.

For now, the theater is in a fundraising phase. Alumni are working to raise as much money as they can before the fundraising goes public. At that point, the Office of Advancement will make a “campaign statement” that will include an overview of the project with pictures.

Construction will begin when fundraising reaches around $2 million.

The Resinski Black Box Theater is projected to open during the celebration of SFU’s 75th anniversary. This observance will last from the fall of 2021 through the spring of 2023.

“One of the donors said he could see this becoming ‘our own little Soho,’” said Crusciel.