The Loomis Chaffee community dedicated the school’s newly-opened John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Center for Theater and Dance on Friday, April 8, with a celebratory ceremony in the gracious new space.
Members of the Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff, and parents gathered in the lobby of the new building for the event, which included remarks by Chairman of the Board of Trustees Duncan A.L. MacLean ’90; Head of School Sheila Culbert; Trustee Doug Lyons ’82, P ’16, ’19, who chairs the board’s Buildings & Grounds Committee; architect Caitlin Getman, an associate partner of Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Kraus Instructor for Theater David McCamish; senior Aidan Cooper; junior Jade Silverstein; and Alexandra Nichols, who spoke on behalf of her husband, John ’49, who could not attend.
Before the ceremony, guests were treated to student-led tours of the building. The 17,000-square-foot facility houses the renovated and expanded Norris Ely Orchard (NEO) Theater, a black box theater, a dance studio, a state-of-the-art control booth, a suite of required backstage spaces, a gallery and a spacious lobby.
The Nichols Center for Theater and Dance was made possible by many generous donations from the Loomis Chaffee community, Sheila said in her remarks. She thanked the Nichols family for “this beautiful facility and all they have done to support the project.” The couple donated the lead gift for the project.
Although John could not attend the ceremony, Alexandra was joined by the couple’s daughter, Trustee Kendra Nichols Wallace ’91; their son, John Nichols III ’94; and their granddaughter, sophomore Mandarin Wallace.
Alexandra spoke to the gathering about the meaning and power of the performing arts in her and John’s lives. “What brings us the most joy is that for years and years to come, students, families, and community members will be able to come and enjoy this facility,” she said.
In addition to the Nichols family, Sheila thanked the many other supporters of the project, including attendees Trustee Jamie Widdoes ’72; Brad Lewis ’83 and his brother Graham, father of Rhys ’19; Jacqueline and Kevin Magid, parents of senior Vanessa; Jennifer Rhodes ’88; David ’76 and Rebecca Sayles and their daughter Nina ’13; and Tim Schwartz ’79.
In his remarks, theater director David McCamish spoke of the stories “embedded” in the old NEO and the importance of keeping those stories alive as the new space was re-imagined and enhanced. “Our students find a sacred space in the NEO,” he said. “Theater is about sharing experiences and finding truth in the performance on stage. This building will continue to support our students in the years to come.”
Aidan and Jade shared personal reflections about the meaning of the performing arts in their lives, and they expressed gratitude that students will use and enjoy the facility long into the future.
Other generous contributors to the project included the MacLean family; Jeffrey and Nancy Hoffman, parents of Lara ’04, Lindsay ’06 and Olivia ’10; the Wallace Research Foundation (the Gilchrist family); the Harry E. Goldfarb Foundation (Bob and Frankie Goldfarb, parents of Lynn ’86, grandparents of Sam ’18 and Emma ’20; Bill Goldfarb, father of Laura ’91 and Paula ’96); Jed Cohen ’05; Christopher and Soojin Lee, parents of Elizabeth ’14, Joseph ’16, and Julianna ’19; the Rinaldi family; and Betsey and Jay Rebello, parents of Avery ’19 and Anna ’21.
Watch a brief video about the dedication event and the new building.