Setting the Stage for Saturday’s Black Tie Gala

Barton's new Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre.
Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre.

WILSON, N.C. – Think Theatre! Think Barton!  On Saturday, September 12, the curtain will rise on the new Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre ( at Barton College in Wilson. A Black-Tie Gala, celebrating the grand opening of the theatre, culminates in a world premiere production of “Drift,” a new musical by New York composer Jeremy Schonfeld, directed by Lauren Kennedy, and co-produced by Raleigh’s “Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy.”

The Black Tie Gala will honor theatre donors who have contributed $2,500+ toward the construction of the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre. On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 13, a Wine and Cheese Reception, with a second presentation of “Drift,” is planned for additional theatre donors and invited guests. The weekend festivities will showcase this distinctive new theatre prior to its public opening on September 16.

“The Grand Opening Weekend for the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre will provide an opportune occasion to express our gratitude for the vision and financial commitment of the Kennedy family and all donors who have supported the building of this new ‘black box’ teaching theatre on the Barton campus,” shared Dr. Norval C. Kneten, president of Barton College. “This new theatre will complement the performance assets of the region and will provide new dimensions for the community to experience theatre and other performance art.”

Jeremy Schonfeld's "Drift"
Jeremy Schonfeld's "Drift"

Schonfeld’s “Drift,” presented by Theatre at Barton and Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy will begin its public run for the Greater Wilson community at the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 16 and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 20. The show will move to The Kennedy Theatre at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh and will run from September 23-27. All tickets for “Drift” are available at

Campaign and Construction

“The need for a home for theatre at Barton has long been recognized,” said Dr. Norval C. Kneten, president of Barton College. Fundraising for the new theatre began prior to 2003, and an extensive study confirmed that a teaching theatre in the form of the classic ‘black box’ would best serve those needs. The project’s leading donor, Dr. K.D. Kennedy, Jr., a former member and past chair of the Barton College Board of Trustees, created an incredible surge of support for the much needed theatre. The Kennedy family contributed in excess of $1 million, and total fundraising for the project has exceeded $3.1 million to date.

When the project was publicly announced, Dr. Kennedy cited a number of reasons that prompted his support of this project, not the least of which was the value of philanthropy his father instilled in him at an early age. He shared that his dad, the late K.D. Kennedy, a trustee emeritus of Barton College, taught his son the importance of giving to programs and projects that enriched the lives of young people. Theatre has always been a passion for Dr. Kennedy, his wife, Sara Lynn, and their family; this project just seemed to be a natural fit.

The Theatre Campaign Steering Committee, led by Barton trustee Eric Sellers, announced in early October 2007 the extraordinary success in the silent phase of the “Think Theatre! Think Barton!” campaign as the College began its transition into the public phase of fundraising. The theatre’s groundbreaking was held in April 2008 and construction began by early summer. The theatre was completed just in time for the opening of Barton College’s 2009 fall semester.

The Black Box Theatre and Its Impact

The dream of a state-of-the-art black box theatre at Barton College is now a reality. The theatre is named in honor of Broadway stars Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell of New York, veteran actors who have committed their time and energy to support the theatre’s educational program. Both Kennedy and Campbell plan to visit the Barton campus annually to teach master classes, conduct seminars, and coach theatre majors. “These dedicated artists have been recognized with numerous awards and nominated for the Tony Award, live-theatre’s highest honor. Now, Lauren and Alan pledge their support to Barton’s theatre. Their direct ties to the world of professional theatre are an incredible asset to our students and will undoubtedly set our program apart,” said Adam Twiss, director of the theatre program at Barton College.

As a teaching facility, the versatility of the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre is a tremendous recruitment tool, attracting serious theatre students to pursue their educational goals at Barton College. Non-theatre majors at Barton are also encouraged to experience the excitement of the stage and will benefit from working in a flexible, black box theatre.

The theatre consists of several spaces including a spacious atrium that can serve as a reception area and gallery for college and community events, a fully-equipped scene shop for building props and scenery, offices for theatre program personnel, dressing rooms, costume storage, and of course, the performance space.

“Along with staged productions, the performance space will be where hands-on theatre training is conducted,” added Twiss. “This particular style of performance space is referred to as ‘a black box’ or ‘flexible-space.’  It consists of four bare walls, a flat, open floor plan, and a utilitarian grid above the entire space. The beauty of this type of space for a training program is that it can be configured in any fashion; the theatre produced here will be limited only by our imaginations.  And, Barton’s students can have the experience of working in all the types of theatres they will face professionally.”

“What Barton will be able to offer with the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre is truly revolutionary for our theatre program and the students who comprise it,” he continued. “I am thrilled to begin the fall semester in this new facility, and I look forward to the years of innovative, collaborative, and creative energy that will flow from the new theatre and will be identifiable element of our comprehensive Barton experience.”

“Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy,” headquartered in Raleigh, also plans to bring their acclaimed summer productions to the new Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre. This partnership with the Barton theatre program commences with this inaugural production of “Drift.” The show features several Barton students working alongside industry professionals, gaining invaluable experience. And, these professional opportunities for Barton students will provide the essential industry connections required for employment upon graduation.

Visit and click on the “public events calendar” for the latest listings of Theatre at Barton productions and other events to be held in the new Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre.


Questions?  Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations at Barton College, at 252-399-6529 or email: