SDS Announces Plans for New Theatre

The spring play’s final performance Thursday evening culminated with an exciting surprise announcement for a brand-new black box theatre to be built on the SDS campus, creating a dedicated performance space for all students to explore drama, music, public speaking and more. The building will be named in honor of long-time SDS theatre teacher Valerie M. Barnet.

The announcement coincided with Barnet’s upcoming birthday and her final production at SDS before retirement after 17 years and 30-plus plays and performances as a theatre teacher. Family, friends, students and former students, and other members of the Spartanburg Day School community were in attendance for the reveal and a reception following the show.

“I’m positively overwhelmed and filled with joy for the future of the theatre program at Spartanburg Day School,” Barnet said. “It’s a long-needed facility, and I cannot wait to see the productions in that beautiful new space. I’m just overjoyed.”

The project gained momentum following a lead gift from the Barnet family to create a performance space for future Griffins. The family was joined by other generous contributors eager to celebrate Valerie’s commitment to the Day School and to this new space for performance and learning.

“It’s exciting to celebrate Valerie’s special birthday and honor her long tenure of teaching drama by seeing her family and friends underwrite a much-needed theatre facility that will benefit the students of the Day School for generations to come,” said Bill Barnet, Valerie’s husband.

Fundraising efforts currently total $1.9 million and are ongoing as school leaders work to finalize the theatre’s location on campus and its design. McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture has been retained for the project and provided a conceptual rendering for Thursday’s event. Also announced were plans to name a lobby and gallery space within the theatre for retired SDS Fine Arts Center Coordinator Nancy Corbin.

“We are so excited to announce this much-needed, artistic and functional addition to our campus – one that will support programs for current and future Griffins across all three divisions,” said Head of School Rachel Deems. “There could not be a more fitting tribute to Valerie who for years has guided our students to express themselves, gain confidence and develop a love for the performing arts. We look forward to celebrating many great performances in the new theatre in honor of Valerie’s influence at the Day School.  I am grateful for her family and all the donors who are making it possible.  

Sam Mitchell, coordinator of the Mildred Harrison Dent Fine Arts Center, said a dedicated theatre facility is a long-wished for need.

“To say I am excited about the theatre is an understatement,” Mitchell said. “Concepts and plans for a theatre have bubbled up over the 16 years that I have been at SDS. To see it come to life will include the passion, hard work, and artistic vision of many whom I've worked with and many more who came before me. Turning on the stage lights will be a shining example and a testament to the perseverance and a collective love of many for the performing arts.”