Cape Fear Regional Theatre is undergoing renovations to improve the audience experience.
The popular theatre that began performing in 1962 under the name “Fayetteville Little Theatre” became CFRT and now features a three-story complex serving about 49,000 audience members in a typical year.
“This theatre is flying from coach to first-class,” Mary Kate Burke, artistic director for CFRT, said.
CFRT will be getting a new HVAC system, more handicap accessible and stair-free seating, better lighting and a new sound system, among other changes.
“The width of the seats will go from 19 to 21 inches and the depth of each row will gain at least 6 inches deeper than before from the knees to the back of the chair,” Burke said. “There was a lot of community engagement and consensus and we have decided to stick with the red seats.”
In the past, CFRT received feedback about volume issues and uneven hearing throughout the theatre. The new sound system will address and fix these problems. The organization invited Rob Kaplowitz to help design the system.
Kaplowitz is a 25-year veteran in the sound industry, having worked as a composer, sound designer and is a recipient of a Tony Award for “Fela!” and an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence In Sound Design, among other celebrations of his work. He has worked in many theatre companies on and off Broadway.
CFRT hosted a meet-and-greet with Kaplowitz for theatre sponsors, donors and patrons on April 16 to show the crowd prototypes of the new improvements and the new sound system.
“The old sound system’s best speakers were the center ones, you can see there’s a wide variation from front to bank, so rest assured I have replaced all of them,” he said. “We are becoming inaudible going to the back. Before, the person who wanted the front and aisle seat was hearing the worst sounding show possible.”
Kaplowitz said the equipment that CFRT had been using in the building is pre-2000s and basically obsolete, adding that sound technology has rapidly evolved in the last few years.
“The new speakers sound 60 times better than the voice you heard so far,” he assured the crowd. “With the new speakers, you've got coverage all the way to the back, with very little variation. The difference between two seats will not be more than 8 decibels, which is very low.”
CFRT has reached over 70% of their monetary goal to pay for renovations due to contributions from various patrons and donors. The theatre also received a $250,000 grant that jump-started the campaign from a foundation that prefers to remain anonymous.
Theatre-goers can also sponsor a new seat with a plaque bearing a name or message. There are about 100 seats left to sponsor. Sponsor plaques from the original seats will be part of a new installation in the lobby. More information can be found by visiting www.cfrt.org/support/#capital-campaign. Those interested in learning how to become a sponsor can call Ella Wrenn at 910-323-4234 ext. 229.