By Margaret Attridge


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The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on March 27, 2021. (Julia Nikhinson/College Park Here Now)

The University of Maryland’s (UMD) School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies is getting a major technological upgrade, all thanks to a generous gift from mathematics Professor Emeritus Michael Brin and his wife, Eugenia, and the Brin Family Foundation.


The $9 million donation will establish the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance. The funding will also create new faculty and graduate assistant positions and will be used to improve technology and upgrades to support the new technology, according to Maura Keefe, director of the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.


“This is a way of bringing our campus together with our strengths in science and technology, and our strengths in arts and creativity, as a way to engage our entire community,” said Bonnie Thorton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. 


While the upgrades will primarily benefit students who are enrolled in classes and who are theater and dance majors, members of the greater community will also experience the benefits of new technologies during performances.


“A lot of people in the school have been working hard, especially recently, to bring technology to life through innovative productions,” wrote UMD theater major Virginia Coldren in an email. “I hope that they can bring some new classes, professors, and resources that can really expand our learning as Theatre students … we definitely need updates in our studios to be able to work with the rapidly changing technology of today.”


According to Keefe, upgrades will include classroom and studio renovations. Instructional technology, improved lighting and projectors will be installed this summer.


“The new technology will allow us to continue our efforts to stream out to the community, certainly in College Park, but also around the world. [We want to] bring people into the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts and see what it’s like to be in a live performance that’s mediated by technology, right there in the audience,” Keefe said. “It is a fantastic gift in support of exploration and research, and the donor … really values that exploration and research in the arts are a necessary and critical part of a research-run institution,” she added.


The Maya Brin Institute for New Performance is named in honor of Michael Brin’s mother, who loved dance and was a lecturer in the Russian Studies program at the university, according to Thorton Dill. Brin previously supported a lectureship in Russian studies in honor of his mother, as well as an endowment gift in the form of a named professorship in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.


“Innovation, creation, and creativity are things that are really seen as hallmarks of this university, and those things are also very much at the heart of the arts. As we are looking at developing a vision of the arts for the future, what has really become very apparent is that new creativity in the arts will expand and include technological approaches and solutions, create new technology and use existing technology in new ways,” Thorton Dill noted.


The Brin Family Foundation’s gift advances a UMD initiative, Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, which has funded projects including the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering and the newly renovated Cole Field House.