With over 45 distinct performing-arts groups, there is no shortage of creativity on Penn's campus. But there is a shortage of a different kind -- space.
Thanks to a $1 million gift from Penn alumni Marc Platt and Julie Beren Platt, his wife, relief is on the way -- in the form of a brand-new, 13,000-square-foot student performing-arts house.
The center will be housed in the basement of Stouffer College House, formerly known as Stouffer Down Under, once home to a cafeteria and a bowling alley.
Although the offices of Housing and Conference Services and College Houses and Academic Services offices were moved into a part of the space in 2003, much of the basement has remained largely unoccupied since the Stouffer dining hall closed its doors in 2001.
It is estimated that the project will cost about $2.5 million with the remainder financed by the University.
A light construction schedule is slated to begin over winter break and will go on through May. In an effort to not disturb Stouffer residents, the major construction will take place during the summer months, with the project set to be completed by August --- just in time for the new school year.
Ty Furman, director of student performing arts, penned the initial proposal for the house in 1999 and is delighted that the dream of having a performing-arts hub at Penn is finally being realized.
"For me, it's like a career pinnacle," Furman said.
The center will feature six state-of-the-art rehearsal rooms, storage, six administrative offices, a bank of computers with set, lighting, sound and music-composition software and a lounge and resource area.
Amma Kwateng, a Wharton senior who is involved with three dance groups on campus, believes the hub will be a welcome addition to the performing-arts community at Penn.
"It's a big space," Kwateng said. "It is going to be a dance and rehearsal space with storage for costumes and props. Having the new space will definitely be a good benefit for all of the dance groups."
Currently, the Performing Arts Council's 46 groups share about 12 rehearsal spaces around campus -- a number that many say is insufficient during the busy audition and show periods.
Often, the University is forced to rent spaces, such as St. Mary's Parish Hall at 39th and Locust streets, to accommodate the demand for practice space.
College and Engineering senior George Cooper, a baritone in the Penn Singers, is familiar with the issue.
"Penn Singers is well established, so we're lucky. We have a regular rehearsal space," Cooper said. "But I hear stories from other groups. There's a lot of competition."
Not only will the house feature rehearsal rooms for dance, theater, musical theater and the Penn Band, but it will also house a cabaret stage with lights, sound and seating for at least 60.
Furman, whose office will be relocated to the new center along with the four other PAC administrative offices, has high hopes for the Platt Student Performing Arts House.
"I just want there to be constant activity, constant creativity and collaboration," Furman said. "Also, more opportunities for service -- we'd like to do an after-school program. I see a really comfortable space to do what these students need it to do -- all in one location."
Marc Platt -- who was a member of the Glee Club during his time at Penn -- has gone on to produce such hits as Legally Blonde and Broadway's Wicked. He said he hopes the center will help student performers cultivate their craft for professional careers in the arts.
Revamping Stouffer - Total cost: $2.5 million - Alumni gift: $1 million - Size of facility: 13,000 square feet - Estimated start of construction: December/January - Estimated end of construction: August
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