Russell Conwell, a pastor and lawyer from Boston, arrived in Philadelphia in 1882 to lead Grace Baptist Church. Conwell agreed to tutor a young man unable to afford a formal education. Soon thereafter others showed up for Conwell's evening classes at the Baptist Temple, and the number of students quickly grew into the hundreds. In 1888, a charter for Temple College was issued, and in 1907 the school became Temple University.
Temple played host to some prominent speakers during the mid-20th century, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Margaret Mead. Alistair Cooke and Edward R. Morrow delivered commencement addresses. But despite the building's storied past, the Baptist Temple went unoccupied for 30 years and fell into disrepair.
Seemingly headed toward destruction, the Temple was recently certified a Historical Building by the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and designated a Landmark by the American Institute of Architects. A major renovation was undertaken, and the Baptist Temple found new life as the Temple Performing Arts Center, a state-of-the-art cultural center for the University and community.
The main auditorium, Lew Klein Hall, seats 1200. Approximately half of the seats are immediately left and right of the 40-foot by 40-foot stage, with additional seating in a gallery behind the choir loft. The hall is primarily designed for classical and popular music performance, but also hosts lectures and large scale projection.
As Curtis Kasefang of Chapel Hill, NC-based Theatre Consultants Collaborative observes, the hall's unique configuration with tightly stacked side balconies immediately adjacent to the stage, large expanses of glass and a very variable stage depth made designing a sound system that provided high-quality sound coverage to every seat a delicate undertaking.
Kasefang's system design centers around four clusters of nine Renkus-Heinz PN121 Series loudspeakers, each cluster configured for 360-degree coverage. Three of the clusters are spread across the front of the fixed stage area in a LCR configuration, with the fourth positioned at the front of the removable thrust stage extension. Eight PN82 cabinets provide delay coverage to underneath the left and right balconies, with two mobile pairs of PN212 subwoofers placed under the edge of the stage when needed.
"One of the main reasons why I like the Renkus-Heinz speakers, specifically the PN-series, is they blend very well from cabinet-to-cabinet in an array, with very minimal lobing," Kasefang said. "I can count on them to provide CD quality music sound."
The facility opened with a performance by Patti Lupone, with a variety of classical music, lectures and popular performers planned for its first season, including events as diversified as The Chamber Orchestra Of Philadelphia, Hot 8 Brass Band and Loretta Lynn.