Charlie Ducey, Staff Writer
The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) may seem isolated, lying at the far south end of campus, but its five unique venues, which host live performances and film screenings, form a center of artistic culture at the University of Notre Dame.
House Manager KristaRose Lerma, who conducts tours as part of her job, described the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center as a place the university is fortunate to have.
“DPAC provides a great variety of service to the Notre Dame community, from weekly film screenings in Browning Cinema to live performances in the Leighton Concert Hall,” said Lerma.
As Lerma explained, each of the five primary venues in DPAC carries with it the story of the person or persons for whom it is named. Covering the building’s $62.6 million construction cost required an overflow of charitable donations, and the titles of each theatre and hall bear witness to those individuals whose generous contributions brought DPAC into being.
On the first floor, the Philbin Studio Theatre boasts a familiar name for those acquainted with ABC’s Live! With Regis and Kellyor Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, as Lerma explained.
“Regis Philbin—a Notre Dame sociology major—donated the money needed to construct this black box theatre,” said Lerma. “The black box style of theatre places the actors close to the audience and allows them to move around the audience as they perform.”
Also on the first floor, the Leighton Concert Hall offers seating for 900 viewers to enjoy such performances as the Kenny Barron Jazz Trio and the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra.
“The Leightons funded the construction of the concert hall,” Lerma explained. “The Leighton family actually has a history of donating money to many philanthropic causes in the South Bend community, such as Memorial Hospital of South Bend, located downtown.”
Ascending to the second floor, movie-goers enter the Browning Cinema, named after the family of Michael Browning, a 1986 Notre Dame alumnus. The cinema is home to Friday and Saturday night weekly showings of films, old and new. On other days, film connoisseurs can attend film screenings sponsored by on-campus institutions, such as the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. Student-made films also attract crowds during the annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival, normally held in January.
Across the hall, the Decio Theatre expands the theatrical possibilities with its enormous mainstage. Recently, students performed the Tony Award-winning musical Cabaretin this theatre. The Patricia George Decio Theatre honors the wife of Arthur Decio, for whom the Decio Faculty Hall is named.
Seemingly hidden away in the corner of DPAC, the Reyes Organ and Choral Hall, named for Chris and Anne Reyes, contains one of the most impressive features of the facility—a 35 stop, $1 million, German-style organ situated on the second floor of the hall. The pipes stretch all the way from the ground floor to the third floor balcony.
Professor of Organ Craig Cramer said the design of the space is specific to the functioning of the two organs, a beautiful Italian antique and the newer German-styled one.
“The acoustics of this hall were specially designed by an acoustician,” Cramer said. “Every single thing he said he would do, he did, and it’s precisely what we wanted.”
Cramer explained the workings of the organ, which uses two rows of keys, a set of foot pedals and four columns of stops to achieve what he described as an “intensely beautiful sound.” He even allowed me to step inside the enormous contraption, which proved surprisingly roomy even with three people standing inside.
“The removal of the stops allows air to pass through the pipes,” Cramer explained, as he demonstrated the manifold tones generated by the pipes of variant length and size.
If each stop combination were to be played for only one second, Cramer calculated that it would take some 1,100 years before all the stop combinations would be exhausted.
“That amount of time would take you back to the year 900,” Cramer explained, “which was around the time of the pipe organ’s medieval origins.”
The facility as a whole has its own unique origin story: The Maria P. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, as DPAC is officially known, was funded in honor of Maria P. DeBartolo by her children, Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., and Denise DeBartolo York.
The father of the family, Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., was a graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s class of 1932 and is the man for whom DeBartolo Hall is named. DeBartolo amassed a fortune developing shopping malls in suburban America, which enabled his philanthropy as well as his ownership of the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We like to say that he was essentially the inventor of the strip mall,” Lerma said.
With the generous funding of several chief donors and many other sponsors, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center provides many artistic performances for theatre goers. The building also enhances academics, as the facility contains classrooms, scene shops and rehearsal sites. In fact, every venue that I tried to peek into during my tour was occupied—by classes of Notre Dame students, no less.
Charlie Ducey is a sophomore English major. He always thought his byline would be clever, but now he’s grasping for words. Contact Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org.