The grand sounds of the MCL proscenium theatre

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The unique architecture of the proscenium creates optimal sound for both musical and dramatic performances. (Photos by Leopold Knopp)

The sounds inside the proscenium theatre at the Medical City Lewisville Grand reverberate vibrantly and envelope the audience.

Show after show, artists are amazed at the unique sound of the room, said arts center manager Denise Helbing. She explained how live music and theatrical performances require different types of audio.

“Our space happens to work out to be a great combination of both,” Helbing said. “It’s a controlled space but has a nice ring to it.”

The MCL Grand, located in the heart of Old Town at 100 N. Charles St., opened in Jan. 2011 with the purpose of acting as a community gathering space, said communications relations and tourism director James Kunke.

“What MCL Grand does more than anything else is bring the fine and cultural arts to a level people can access and enjoy,” Kunke said. “People feel welcomed and that’s exactly the type of connection we were trying to achieve with this facility.”

Arts center specialist Aaron Kays explained that the acoustics are “phenomenal” in the proscenium partially because of the different angles of the walls and ceilings in the room.

“Each angle is meticulously chosen for what has the best sound,” Kays said. “Varying angles of walls help break [the audio] up.”

Aligning the walls in the auditorium are holes spread out in a specific, repeating pattern.  

“Sometimes I’ve heard people refer to this as a Bass trap, which absorbs the heavy first hit of the sound and only reflects the secondary wave of the sound,” Kays said, also commenting that the look creates an added aesthetic.

Kays said the room has a full theatrical lighting system with LED lights. Helbing said they’ve recently upgraded the lighting to offer more and new options, while still planning to add “several more moving lights” later this year.

The proscenium seats 296 audience members, a number specifically chosen to fit a niche venue not as easily accessible in other places.

A church previously stood where MCL is now, Kunke said. The city bought the land from the church in around 2001 to create a building that would draw people to Old Town. At first Lewisville used the facility as it was, but soon realized it didn’t have the proper functionalities. In 2004, the city committed to creating an arts center with a final budget of about $10 million.

Kunke said the theater is paid through the Old Town tax increment district, or its TIRZ. The outstanding debt of the TIRZ should be paid off in 2024. Kunke said the building generates about half of its operating cost, and the other half comes from its general fund.

“It’s not self sufficient, but remember it was designed and intended as a community space,” Kunke said. “We’re looking for an investment in Old Town that will encourage additional development and growth.”

Kunke said there have been some minor changes and upgrades to the building since it opened, like installing outside lighting on Church St.

Kunke said MCL brought about 35,000 visitors last year. Helbing said MCL attracts a variety of shows, exhibits and programs because of the versatility of the room and building.

“We’re set up in a good scientific way and then the technicalities help carry us the rest of the way to be appealing and useful for almost anything,” Helbing said.

Besides live shows and music performances inside the proscenium theater, the MCL has two art exhibit halls, which feature local artists, a black box theater, a recital hall and classrooms. The theater can also be rented out for private parties or events, such as weddings and quinceañeras.

The proscenium theater hosts Texas Tunes, an annual music series featuring artists with ties to Texas. The MCL also hosts an ongoing Black Box Songwriter Series, showcasing singer/songwriters in their black box theater.

For more information about renting out space, visit their website. A full schedule of events at the MCL Grand can be found here.

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