The Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre at Penn State Harrisburg opened in August of 2016. The 331-seat theatre is housed inside the Student Enrichment Center (SEC) at the south end of the campus quad. The $4 million dollar Kulkarni Theatre is one of the most technologically advanced college theatres in the region, with an investment of nearly a half million dollars in a state-of-the-art LED lighting system and wireless digital sound system.
Events and Programs
Since its opening, the Kulkarni Theatre has hosted a variety of events, including lectures, film showings, seminars, fully produced live theatre, dance, and music. It is the home of the Kulkarni Cultural Series, which features a selection of high-quality, live professional national and international performing arts events throughout the fall and spring semesters. The Series has presented artists and groups such as Pasion y Arte Flamenco Dance, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre, The Campbell Brothers, The Klezmatics, The Paul Taylor Dance Company, Lúnasa, Robin Spielberg, Gina Chavez, Nobuntu, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, The Fitzgeralds, Namaste India, Passion of Flamenco, and the Zombie Ant Experience, an immersive art gallery.
The Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre has featured many notable speakers such as Lori Locust, Sean Astin, Raymond Santana, Sue Klebold, Sara Koenig, John Quinones, Tarana Burke, Coach Carter, Dr. Mae Jemison, Dr. Guy Bluford, and Dr. Philip Zimbardo, as well as pro football stars John Urschel and Wade Davis. It has also hosted the PNC Thought Leaders Lecture series, which has included economic theory expert Richard Florida; researcher, writer and PBS host Stephen Johnson; shared business expert Lisa Gansky; and business strategist Martin Reeves.
The Penn State Harrisburg School of Humanities annually presents live theatre productions, choral, and instrumental concerts on the Kulkarni Theatre stage. Past theatre productions have included Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Machinal, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, The Importance of Being Earnest, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, She Kills Monsters, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Death of a Salesman, Avenue Q, and Proof. The Capital Players Theatre Club also holds an annual cabaret to showcase student talent in the performing arts.
Penn State Harrisburg’s Diversity and Educational Equity Committee (DEEC) has partnered with the Kulkarni Theatre to present You Tube therapist Kati Morton, Dasha Kelly Hamilton in “Makin’ Cake,” acclaimed actress and neuroscientist, Mayim Bialik; record setting track and field sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson; Broadway star, Bryan Terrell Clark; the Annual MLK Campus Play Series; and an episodic theatrical performance, Silenced Voices. The Penn State Harrisburg Office of Student Engagement has also presented a variety of programs in the Kulkarni Theatre, including Mike Super, Magic & Illusion, The Second City’s Virtual Improv House Party, ZuZu African Acrobats, Penn State Harrisburg Reads, World Fest, Steve Rudolph Quintet, and the Defamation Experience.
The Naming of the Kulkarni Theatre
Penn State Harrisburg officially dedicated the Student Enrichment Center theatre facility in honor of retired Chancellor Mukund S. Kulkarni in September of 2018. A plaque identifying his legacy and accomplishments hangs at the base of the staircase in the Student Enrichment Center. Here is a portion of the statement on the plaque:
“Dr. Mukund S. Kulkarni joined Penn State Harrisburg in 1985 as a faculty member in the School of Business Administration, and advanced in faculty rank and in leadership posts prior to becoming chancellor in 2010. He retired June 30, 2018.
Penn State Harrisburg experienced substantial growth in its student population, including a record number of international students, during Dr. Kulkarni’s tenure. He built upon the college’s reputation for attracting high-caliber students, highly credentialed faculty members, and dedicated staff members…
Dr. Kulkarni’s leadership was marked by a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness and the belief treating each other with respect and civility is paramount and that education is fullest when we learn from those around us, regardless of differences.”
The portion of the University endowment that benefits Penn State Harrisburg grew by more than $3 million thanks to recent gifts in the spring of 2018 honoring Dr. Kulkarni. The gifts support the naming of the Kulkarni Theatre; the Mukund S. Kulkarni Cultural Series Program Fund, which will support annual cultural programs and performances in the theatre; and scholarships through Penn State’s Open Doors Scholarship Matching Program.
“Facilities for arts and culture have been a dream of mine for years. This facility fills this major gap that existed on the campus and I am honored that it will bear my name,” Kulkarni said. “I am truly humbled by the generosity of many donors and the consideration given by the University.” Mukund S. Kulkarni, April 2018