Holland College's renovated performing arts hall is all decked out and ready to go

Holland College's performance space — a piece of 1930s Charlottetown history that recently underwent a major facelift — is set to shine at its official opening Thursday night.

Renovations partly funded by theatre's namesake Florence Simmons, a P.E.I. patron of the arts

The Florence Simmons Performance Hall holds more than 300 people. (Holland College)

Holland College's performance space — a piece of 1930s Charlottetown history that recently underwent a major facelift — is set to shine at its official opening Thursday night.

Before the $2.6-million renovation project began just over a year ago, the Florence Simmons Performance Hall looked more like gymnasium than a theatre.

The refurbished hall — is named for lead donor and Island art enthusiast Florence Simmons, who gave more than $700,000 to the project — holds 303 people and is decked out with new lighting and sound equipment.

Simmons also donated her own piano to the school, which now enjoys a place of honour in the theatre's lobby.

Many of the original 1932 design elements were maintained to honour the land's history of 200 years of post-secondary education.

A mural features many performers who previously graced the stage at Holland College. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

"We were aware of the lineage that we were part of and thought it was very important that we proceed with the renovation in a sympathetic and respectful way," said Michael O'Grady, vice-president of Holland College.

One element is a massive mural featuring some of the performers who graced the stage, such as Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot.

And now the college's performing arts students have their own stage. Before renovations they had to use the stage at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

"It just makes it so much more comfortable and easier to get out there and just go for it and do what you're here to do," said dancer Megan Broom.

The hall's decor is reminiscent of the 1930s era. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

The space opens up many possibilities, said music performance student Justice Jones.

"It gives people the opportunity to perform, and it's a wonderful hall," said Jones.

"Everyone that built it is wonderful and so it can only do good. It can only serve to promote the college and promote the hall."

O'Grady said requests are coming in to rent the hall, including from some professional groups.

Tickets to Thursday's show are by invitation only, but the college will be streaming the performance on its website.


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