All the world may be a stage, but the University's section lacks good lighting and proper acoustics. Space, or the lack of it, is a perennial gripe for the campus performing arts community. They rush to sign up for it. They negotiate with other groups for it. They can't get enough of it. Two weeks ago, the Performing Arts Council requested emergency money after Quadramics volunteered to move its fall show to the expensive Harold Prince Theatre in order to make space for other groups in cost-free Houston Hall. In fact, three of the five agenda items at the PAC meeting arose from space-related concerns: new opportunities in the Tabernacle Church and fewer openings in Arts House. The number of groups has increased rapidly in the past 10 years, and with it the demand on the five theaters and various other performance sites on campus. Finding room has become the largest administrative burden on student artists, and long-term solutions have not been found. "When I was hired two years ago, I got a clear-cut mandate from the students that I should be worried about space," said Kathryn Helene, student performing arts coordinator, in an interview this week. "So I worry about space." Helene's office is responsible for coordinating space requests from the 28 PAC-member groups, and she also helps non-member groups fill their needs. Glee Club Director Bruce Montgomery, who has been involved with University performing arts for the past 41 years, said last week that interest in performing arts mushroomed about 10 years ago. (****EDS NOTE, CORRECTION - Quaker Notes, an a cappella group were formed in 1979) "Everything sort of grew, like Topsy," Montgomery said. In response to the expanded need, the University gave groups access to space in the Annenberg School and to what Montgomery termed "less attractive spaces" such as the High Rise rathskellars. Helene said that she and Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson are currently evaluating alternatives for new space. "The University is cognizant of the fact that we need space," Montgomery said. "But they just don't have it to give." "We rehearse wherever we can get space," said Goldsmith. "There's not enough space on campus." Two years ago, the University began to rent a rehearsal room in the Tabernacle Church, and last semester Penn 6-5000 practiced in off-campus homes. Quadramics has rehearsed in classrooms and dormitory lounges. "The problem with developing new space off campus is that many students, especially undergraduates, don't want to stray too far from campus," Helene said. "There are security issues involved." The new hope for student performers is the planned campus center, which according to the most recent plan will include a black-box theater. Helene said she believes the building will eventually include an additional theater equipped with full sound and lighting facilities, as well as some rehearsal space. "One new theater would substantially help us as we stand now in 1990," she said, "but if this building is intended to be sufficient for the next 20 years, it is a practical given that it will become woefully inadequate unless things change around campus." Students complain that even the rooms they can secure for their organizations are often marginally useful, with poor acoustics or no piano. Chord On Blues President Bill Michalski said that his group would benefit most from better-equipped rooms in the campus center. "People tend to think that if youre an a cappella group, you don't need a piano," said the Engineering senior. "But you need a piano to learn the music." Helene added that the campus center committee has expressed a willingness to help identify other viable arts spaces on campus and to recommend renovations to make other areas more useful. Houston Hall is one of the most popular performing spaces because it is free for student groups, according to PAC President Stuart Gibbs, a College senior, while theaters in the Annenberg Center charge for maintenance and security personnel. According to Houston Hall Facilities Coordinator Nancy Wright, she fills four to six space requests from performing arts groups each night. Demand for performance space usually peaks at the end of each semester, leading to conflict among performing groups and a new mediating role for PAC. "PAC has more teeth than it used to," said Montgomery. "There's a tremendous feeling of cooperation that goes on between them [the groups]." Although group leaders often discuss their problem as if it were a crisis, Montgomery said they have found solutions through resourceful planning. "I don't know of any group that has had to cancel a performance because it could not find some place to go," Montgomery said.Comments powered by Disqus
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