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University of Montevallo unveils new Center for the Arts

The stage is set at the new Center for the Arts at the University of Montevallo (UM) – a stage dedicated to one of the university’s most famous alumni and performers.

University officials, along with representatives from Shelby County and Alabama Power, dedicated the center in November. The new building includes a 350-seat theater, 100-seat black box theater and a courtyard suitable for outdoor performances and receptions. Among the amenities are multipurpose classrooms and studios, offices for the Theatre Department, a multiuse digital fabrication lab, scene design and wardrobe shops and storage spaces. The Alabama Power Foundation was among the supporters of the project.

Following a ribbon-cutting, officials dedicated the stage of the center’s DiscoverShelby Theatre in memory of Rebecca Luker, a 1984 UM graduate who went on to a three-decade career on Broadway. Luker, a Birmingham native who grew up in Helena, died in December 2020 at the age of 59 from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS).

Luker’s “crystal-clear operatic soprano,” as described by The New York Times, led to starring roles in nine Broadway musicals, including “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Secret Garden,” “Showboat,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Music Man” and “Mary Poppins.” She was nominated for three Tony Awards and was a successful solo concert and cabaret performer and recording artist. Luker acted on television shows, including “Law and Order, Special Victims Unit,” “The Good Wife” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” And she enjoyed teaching master classes and coaching up-and-coming performers.

Luker’s mother, sister, nephews and other relatives, along with her husband, Danny Burstein, attended the dedication. Burstein is a Tony Award-winning performer who is appearing on Broadway in “Moulin Rouge.”

Burstein thanked the university for creating the Rebecca Luker Scholarship to support UM theater students, and for getting “Becca” started on the road to theatrical success. “When she opened her mouth to sing, her heart fell out,” he told the attendees. A digital collection of tributes to Luker by co-performers and friends has been donated to the university, and Luker’s signature will appear in lights on the stage before each fine arts event.

UM officials also dedicated the Allison and Michael Stephens Hall, which houses the Michael E. Stephens College of Business. A UM graduate, the late Michael Stephens founded Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, known internationally for its work in physical therapy and rehabilitation and as an official Olympic and Paralympic Training Site.

Learn more about the University of Montevallo here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)