Carson Theater to get an upgrade

May 23rd, 2013 | By | Category: 2013, Arts & Entertainment, Issue, May 23

UNL’s Johnny Carson Theater is getting a $571,500 facelift.

The renovation, made possible with a gift from the John W. Carson Foundation, was announced April 26. The project will include a complete redesign of the theater’s entrance and lobby and a new performance floor.

At the gift announcement, Chancellor Harvey Perlman said UNL is again honored to receive support from the foundation of the late Johnny Carson, who proudly grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the university.

“As an integral arm of our performing arts program, the Johnny Carson Theater is an important venue that provides our students and Nebraska residents with opportunities to experience many aspects of the performing arts,” Perlman said. “We are incredibly appreciative of this gift, which promises to greatly improve the experience guests will have at the theater while proudly honoring Johnny Carson’s legacy.”

Bill Stephan, executive director of the Lied Center, said the renovation would provide a new entrance to the theater, nearly double the size of the lobby area and provide a new high-grade floor to serve the theater for the next 20 years.

“The renovation will provide a dramatic new entrance and appropriate lobby area for the Carson Theater, helping to create an environment that will help patrons begin to experience the ultimate theatrical journey,” Stephan said. “The renovation will also feature a new tribute area to celebrate Johnny Carson’s legacy and entertainment contributions.”

The theater is a black box theater that seats up to 250 people and is able to be configured for a variety of different performances. The diverse space is host to more than 100 events annually, ranging from professional theater presentations and dance concerts to youth programs and special events. Located on the west side of the Lied Center, it was named after Carson in recognition of a gift he provided toward construction of the Lied Center in 1990.

Once a project architect is selected, final designs are approved and a construction contractor is hired, the university estimates construction could begin next summer and be completed by the end of 2014.

Carson and his foundation have given more than $7 million, which has bolstered UNL’s theater, film and broadcasting programs.

Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, in 1925, and grew up in Norfolk. He served in World War II in the Navy before enrolling at the university in 1947. He received a bachelor’s degree in radio and speech with a minor in physics in 1949. He hosted “The Tonight Show” from 1962 to 1992.


— Robb Crouch, NU Foundation

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