Santa Monica College (SMC) will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new $17 million Theater Arts Building at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 27th, at 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica.

The celebration, which will include tours, light refreshments and entertainment showcasing theater arts students, is free and open to the public. For information, call (310) 434-4303.

“The opening of this building marks an important milestone in the history of this college,” said SMC president Chui L. Tsang. “This beautiful facility will catapult our already outstanding theater arts program to new heights.”

The 20,000-square-foot theater complex, “designed by the internationally renowned architecture firm, Leo A Daly, Los Angeles,” features a 264-seat theater with full backstage capabilities, a ‘black box’ performance space, lobby, shop, dressing rooms, classrooms and offices, a college official said.

It replaces “the former overcrowded 50-year-old facility that was originally built as a children’s theater in the early 1950s,” the official said.

The new building, which opened for classes August 28th, the first day of the fall semester, was funded by Measure U, a $160-million bond that was approved by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in 2002.

“Our new theater is already renewing and revitalizing our program,” said Perviz Sawoski, Theater Arts Department chair. “We’re excited about filling this facility with outstanding plays, beginning with Evita in October, with excellent production values.”

The project “marks a new chapter for a department known for a list of distinguished alumni that includes two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman, James Dean, Doug McClure and Oscar nominee Gloria Stuart (Titanic),” the official said.

SMC has transferred drama students to universities worldwide, including The Juilliard School, New York University and the Guildford School of Drama/ University of Surrey in England.

In recent years, the college has garnered top honors in the renowned Kennedy Center/ American College Theater Festival.

In 2002, Slavery, a play with music by then-SMC student Jonathan Payne, was selected from more than 360 plays at colleges and universities throughout the nation for the festival.

In 1997, the SMC production of Once on this Island also made it to the Kennedy Center finals.

In both years, the plays were the only community college productions at the time to be selected for performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., according to the official.

Over the years, the department has staged a variety of dramas, comedies and musicals, including classics such as Medea, Broadway musicals such as Cabaret and new works such as Tibet.

During the three-year construction of the new building, the department held classes and staged its plays in a temporary theater at SMC’s satellite campus at Santa Monica Airport.

The design of the new building’s exterior is distinguished by what has been described as an origami-like, angular roof that soars over the theater’s lobby and outdoor balcony.

From an entry plaza sheltered under two large coral trees that are known to be campus landmarks, visitors enter a two-story high lobby and walk up a grand staircase to an upper lobby with an outdoor balcony covered by the angular roof, a college spokesman said.

This balcony overlooks what will be the main quad of the campus, making it a gathering spot during intermission.

The interior of the theater is sloped at a steep angle to provide every seat in the house an unblocked view of the stage.

Backstage capabilities include lighting and sound as well as a full fly-loft, shop, service dock, dressing rooms and costume areas.

The building’s exterior is wrapped in a corrugated metal skin with a silver metallic finish, combined with industrial-style materials such as concrete for walls and exposed-steel structural beams and columns.