Welcoming Audiences to the Newly Renovated Reynolds Industries Theater

Photo by Robert Zimmerman

Reynolds Industries Theater is a storied space, having hosted everything from Broadway shows in development with such stars as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tom Selleck to plays that brought in renowned writers like Gore Vidal and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.

American Dance Festival luminary Shen Wei and many other choreographers premiered new works on the Reynolds stage, and of course 41 years of diverse student groups and countless Durham community members have made use of the venue as well.

The 600-seat theater, located in the Bryan Center on West Campus, went dark in the beginning of fall semester 2022 for replacement of its HVAC system. Thanks to support from Duke Arts, Duke Facilities Management, Duke Student Affairs, and the efforts of the venue and production management team, it has come roaring back to life. The refreshed Reynolds Industries Theater boasts many improvements, including all new seating, aisle lighting, shining refinished walls, a full complement of new stage legs and borders, including a new Duke blue main curtain, with new carpet scheduled in the coming months. Everything is in place to welcome returning audiences.

From April 6 – 15, Reynolds will be the site of performances of the musical Rent, produced by Duke’s Theater Studies Department, in collaboration with Hoof ‘n’ Horn, one of Duke’s longest-running student organizations.

Participants rehearsing in the Reynolds theatre
Cast of “Rent” rehearsing in Reynolds Industries Theater. Photo by Alexa Carr


“Reynolds is such an important space on this campus,” says Marcy Edenfield, senior director, venue & production management “It’s where the students experience and the Durham community comes together. These upgrades really needed to be done, and we are excited to have support for this refresh during the planned downtime and open with substantial changes.”

“We do so many orientation events in Reynolds,” says Kless, production and operations director, venue & production management. “I feel really good about how Reynolds will represent Duke to new families now.”

Edenfield and Kless can attest to the fact that they experienced their share of frustration around supply chain problems and labor shortages that have come to be expected in the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was just one thing after another,” says Edenfield. “We picked carpeting about four times only to hear, ‘Oh yeah, that’s not available,’” recalls Kless. In fact, the new carpet is still delayed and will be installed after the semester winds down.

The lobby will have new displays also, with vintage theater equipment and old set models and the microphone used by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he spoke in Page Auditorium.

Renovation work at the Reynold's theatre
Photo by Richard Kless

Edenfield worked tirelessly piecing together the funding to pull off these upgrades. Major funding was secured for the new seating when Vice Provost for the Arts John Brown was able to designate Duke Endowment funds.

“The Duke Endowment entrusted me with the stewardship of these funds and this is a place where the impact can be meaningful and everybody can feel the effects of the support,” says Brown. “I’m so happy to do something the whole community can enjoy.”

“I truly thank every individual that helped get us to this stage,” says Edenfield. “We had to make a lot of phone calls and so many people stepped up and worked so hard. I’m very excited that it looks so good. I’m proud to open the doors and say, yes, here is our theater.”

Renovated Reynolds Theatre
Photo by Robert Zimmerman


Reynolds re-opened for select student events on March 3, but most audiences will get their first glimpse at the renovated theater when Rent opens on April 6. This collaborative production is an appropriate “welcome back” for a theater that has hosted some of the most historical theatrical events on Duke’s campus, including the Broadway Preview Series, which ran from 1986-1993, followed by Theater Previews at Duke, which ran until 2007. Both premiered new works for live audiences before they were transferred to New York for their Broadway debut

Rent will run from April 6 – 15. Tickets are on sale now. Learn more at: https://theaterstudies.duke.edu/rent