Open-air theater at UAS opens tonight

Noyes Pavilion to seat 120 to 170 people in varying configurations

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2003

Since the late 1980s, former Juneau resident-turned-philanthropist Lily Noyes has been looking for a way to name a building after her late husband, former Alaska commissioner of roads and Alaska National Guard Adjutant Gen. John Noyes.

The University of Alaska Southeast's brand-new, open-air theater - the John and Lily Noyes Pavilion - has its grand opening at 7:30 tonight, and Lily will be there, along with her son, Eric.

Juneau screenwriter David Hunsaker's new play, "Three-Way River," will premiere at 8 p.m, immediately after the ceremony. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

"It's a spectacular setting," said Eric, a systems acquisition manager in the Detroit-area for the U.S. Army. "We're very thrilled to have this recognition for my father and his achievements in Alaska. We really feel that this pavilion will be a wonderful way to honor him."

John Noyes, a former Juneau resident, was named commissioner of roads for Alaska in 1948. By 1951, the state's road system was modernized and the first 300 miles of paved roads were laid out in the state. Noyes later served as Alaska National Guard adjutant general. He died in a plane crash near Nome in 1956. Noyes Mountain, 50 miles south of Tok, is named after him.

The university has wanted to build an open-air theater for more than 10 years. The pavilion is the first building on the UAS campus built entirely with private funds, said Lynne Johnson, director of development and university relations.

The first phase of pavilion construction cost $540,000, including an $110,000 initial grant from the Noyes family. The Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation added $150,000 in total grants, and the rest of the construction was funded with private donations. Katie Corbus, Laraine Derr and Gordon Evans co-chaired fund-raising.

Groundbreaking for the pavilion began in August 2001. Crews poured the foundation in February and completed the wooden framework and scaffolding on April 30. The building is sheltered by trees and looks out over Auke Lake.

The pavilion will not be wheelchair-accessible this weekend. Construction workers have built a temporary dirt ramp pathway leading up to the pavilion.

The second phase of construction will include the installation of a wheelchair ramp, permanent lighting, a permanent sound system, landscaping and movable seating. The university has raised $17,000 of the $30,000 needed to complete the second phase.

"The contractors are working as hard as they can," Johnson said. "Part of the reason we're having the opening before the groundwork is done is so we can time it with 'Three-Way River,' and so the Noyes family can be here for the dedication. This is the only time this summer when the planets aligned."

Perseverance Theatre, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Theatre in the Rough and Juneau Jazz and Classics worked with the university to help design the pavilion's layout. The seating will be movable, collapsible outdoors seats and risers that can seat 120 to 170. There's temporary seating for about 160 now.

"One of the things they wanted was to be able to not have fixed seating so, depending on what production they were doing, they could move chairs," Johnson said.

Eventually, the pavilion will be open for private functions. The college has already been getting requests to reserve the pavilion for weddings.

"The response has been much larger than we anticipated," said Kevin Myers, public information officer for UAS. "At this point we're just figuring out how to go about it internally."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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