The Performing Arts/Radio Television Center, completed in 1985, houses the office complex of the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the Henry Meloy Gallery, the offices of the School of Theatre & Dance and the Montana Repertory Theatre, the Montana Theatre, Masquer Theatre, Open Space Performance Lab, and shops for scenery, costume, lighting, and sound. Also housed in the building is the Broadcast Media Center, which includes studios for KUFM/National Public Radio and KUFM-TV Public Broadcasting System.
In 1977, the Montana Legislature appropriated funds for the planning of a "new fine arts center" on the UM campus. An architect was hired and planning began in 1978. The 1981 Legislature approved $7 million for the building and charged the University with raising $1.1 million. Final plans were approved in Summer 1982 and ground was broken at homecoming in Fall 1982. In May 1985, the building opened with a production of Cowboy, a musical based on the life of Montana Western artist Charles M. Russell. At the time, this was the single most expensive public building in the State of Montana.
The Lobby serves the Montana Theatre, the Masquer Theatre, and the Henry Meloy Gallery. It contains the Box Office, the Dean's office complex, and the Montana Repertory Theatre office. It is dominated by the rya tapestry "Montana Horses." This tapestry, designed by UM Art Professor Emeritus Rudy Autio and woven by Anneli Hartikainen in Helsinki, Finland, was given to the University through the generosity of Champion International and Finnair.
The Costume Shop employs a full-time manager who oversees construction and implementation of designs. The shop has both industrial and domestic sewing machines, sergers, and a blind hemmer; a fitting area; and adjacent laundry and dyeing facilities. The School maintains an extensive stock of modern and period costumes.
The Lighting & Sound Shops are managed by a graduate lighting design student and an undergraduate sound design student, respectively. Along with storage and repair facilities, the lighting shop includes a laboratory area used for student experimentation and classroom instruction. The sound shop includes recording, storage, and repair facilities. The adjacent sound laboratory includes a 20 x 8 mix console; 2-track, 4-track, and 8-track analogue audio recorders; processing equipment; and DAT and miniDisk digital production equipment.
The Masquer Theatre is a black-box theatre. The performance space can be configured for theatre in the round, thrust, runway, or proscenium productions. It seats 80 audience members per seating section, depending on the show and whether or not the pit can be used for seating. There is a permanent 32' by 32' pit built into the floor of the theatre that can be covered with traditional platforming. A permanent lighting and scenery grid is suspended 18' above the audience. This grid is completely accessible by catwalks. Lighting console, sound mixer, and stage manager position are located in a booth suspended from the lighting grid. The permanent audio board is a 12x12 Neotek mix console. There are no permanent speaker locations or scenery rigging in this theatre. The lighting system is controlled by a Strand Mantrix MX and 94 Strand CD80 dimmers. Lighting and audio circuits are located on the grid and at the seating level of the theatre.
The Montana Theatre is a 499-seat proscenium theatre. The seating style is continental, meaning there is no center aisle. There is not a bad seat in this theatre! There is plenty of room between rows, which allows for comfort during the watching of a play, concert, or lecture. Acoustically, the house is very good. At the rear of the house are three booths. The one house right is a viewing booth for designers and directors to watch a show and be able to converse or take notes without bothering the audience.
The Open Space is the School's main dance classroom and performance area. This studio includes a sprung maple floor and flexible, portable seating that can accommodate up to 150 audience members. A permanent lighting grid with 53 dimmers/circuits is suspended 16' above the dance floor and is controlled by a Strand Mantrix 2S lighting console. The permanent audio system includes a Mackie CR1604 mixer and Tascam DAT and MiniDisk machines. Four audio speakers are permanently hung from the grid.
The Scene Shop employs a full-time manager who supervises the construction of all scenic elements, wood, metal, and plastic for all productions. This facility includes a 30' x 60' motorized paint frame and a large area for painting and assembling scenery. Industrial machinery is used for construction using wood and metal stock. Adjacent to the scenery shop is the properties construction and storage area.