The University of Montevallo held a dedication ceremony Nov. 18 for its new Center for the Arts facility. The event included a ribbon cutting and remarks from members of the UM administration, faculty and alumni, as well as representatives from Shelby County and Alabama Power.
In his remarks, Dr. Steven Peters, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said that upon his arrival at UM years ago, Dr. John W. Stewart III, president of the University, informed him of his plan to build a new fine arts facility. After a tour of the then-existing facilities in use, members of the University’s Board of Trustees approved the construction of the new building. Peters thanked Stewart, the trustees, the Shelby County Commission and Alabama Power as well as other constituents for their investments of funding, time and energy in bringing the center to fruition.
Following the ribbon cutting, the Rebecca J. Luker Stage in the DiscoverShelby Theatre was dedicated to the memory of one of the University’s most notable alumni. Rebecca Luker, who graduated from the University of Montevallo in 1984, enjoyed a lengthy and distinguished career as a virtuoso actress, concert soloist and recording artist. Her operatic soprano voice led to her starring in nine Broadway musicals, and she was nominated for three Tony Awards. Her work included performances in “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Secret Garden,” “Showboat,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Music Man” and “Mary Poppins.”
Luker also appeared in a number of acting roles on television including “Law and Order, Special Victims Unit,” “The Good Wife” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” In addition, she enjoyed teaching master classes and coaching up-and-coming performers.
Luker’s mother, sister, nephews and other relatives, as well as her husband, Danny Burstein were all in attendance for the dedication. Nephew Jacob Norse Luker expressed the family’s gratitude to the University for the recognition of Rebecca’s success and recalled and honored her family life.
Burstein, a Tony Award-winning performer in his own right who is currently appearing on Broadway in “Moulin Rouge,” thanked the University for the Rebecca Luker Scholarship and for getting “Becca” started on the road to theatrical success. Noting the quality of her singing voice and her love for musical theatre, he said, “When she opened her mouth to sing, her heart fell out.”
A digital archive of a collection of tributes to Luker by co-performers and friends has been created and donated to the University, and the audience in attendance at the dedication enjoyed a brief preview.
Peters presented Luker’s family with a brick paver engraved with her name, the name of the stage, the date of the dedication and her signature. Luker’s signature will also appear in light on the stage before each fine arts event.