Photo by Geno D'Or
Rollins hired Architectural Painting & Renovation, a Sarasota-based company, to restore the time-ravaged paint that decorates the chairs and ceiling. (Photo by Geno D'Or)

The New and Improved Annie Makes Her Debut

By Laura J. Cole

Photo by David Noe.
Student Spencer Lynn ’12 and President Lewis Duncan (r) present Wynee Warden ’45 with a portrait of her that will be hung in the Annie Russell Theatre lobby. (Photo by David Noe)

Theatergoers may not notice the changes to the Annie Russell Theatre. Captivated by the performances, they may overlook the recent renovations. And that’s just as well. The alterations were subtle yet impactful by design—the kind that ensure the focus is on the show, not the building.

Take a closer look, however, and you’ll notice the artistic detailing on the side of the chairs and ceiling is a bit crisper and a little brighter. The chairs—still the signature red velvet—are plusher and more comfortable. Even the carpet looks fresher. All of these behind-the-scenes changes are thanks to the Bert W. Martin Foundation, led by Wynee Warden ’45, which gave $1.8 million toward the renovation.

Named for Warden’s father, the gifts from the foundation paid for new seating, new carpeting, restoration of decorative artwork, and a new mural in the library. The gifts also funded replacement of the heating and air-conditioning systems, lighting upgrades, and a complete rewiring of the building’s electrical system.

These aesthetic and functional improvements enhance the audience experience and keep the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, viable for education and public performances. Afterall, the shows must go on.