Building XX in demand for theater, dance groups

Theatre and dance department students and faculty said they want to control television studio space in Building XX, which they have been using on a permission-based status since last year. GW officials said the department will have exclusive scheduling rights for the space until the spring, but cannot determine who will take control of the space after next semester because of University space demands and priorities.

Department officials said lack of space for rehearsals and performances fueled their proposal to control the space.

The 1,600-square-foot area in Building XX on the corner of 20th and H streets formerly housed the School of Media and Public Affairs television studio before the school moved to its new building. Although GW controls and schedules the space in Building XX, the department holds several music, theater and dance courses in the studio.

But Building XX lacks basic facilities needs, including lighting and sound equipment, officials said.

“Getting the funding for the repairs will be an ongoing process,” said Leslie Jacobson, chair of the theatre and dance department. “We will have to wait and see what the University will contribute to the improvements and what donations we may get from our own alumni.”

Jacobson said she wants to make the space “usable” by installing a hardwood floor for dance rehearsals and lighting equipment for performances.

The department has complete scheduling control over a few studios on the second floor of the Marvin Center, a Lisner Auditorium space and Building J at 22nd and G streets. Building XX also provides rehearsal and performance space for student theater groups, which schedule times through the theatre and dance department.

The department requested that the University turn the space over so it can be properly renovated.

Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Craig Linebaugh said the University cannot move forward with anything until GW prioritizes its needs, and he has not assessed renovation costs.

“There are large demands for space and large demands for funds to renovate those spaces across the University,” Linebaugh said. “Building XX is getting the same consideration as everyone else. We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly.”

He said there have been no other official requests for the studio but, since there is a lack of classroom space on campus, the University may need to continue using it solely for classes after the spring.

Jacobson said the department has yet to make any definite plans for renovations because it is unsure it will control the space.

“XX is a big, unbroken space that would be desirable to many departments and groups at GW, so until we can be sure that we have a future with XX, we can’t make (final) decisions,” Jacobson said.

There are currently five registered student production companies on campus, and most organization leaders said they would like to see the studio fixed up because it has “potential,” although it is unusable now.

“Building XX is in no condition to be used for performance or rehearsal,” said Nichollette Routhier, a dance major and Presidential Arts Scholarship recipient. “Because it was a TV studio, it is a completely dead space, which is the exact opposite of what production companies need.” Last year two student theater companies, Forbidden Planet Productions and Generic Theatre Company, held shows in Building XX.

“There are so many technical problems with XX,” said FPP Artistic Producer Matt Krell. “There is no place to hang lights, no space for storage and, past the third or fourth row, you can’t even see the stage.”

He said the group brought in lighting and sound equipment for its show last spring, which cost about $1,200. Krell said FPP and Generic shared the cost because their two shows were close together.

FPP Executive Producer Jared Eisenmann said he’d love to see performance groups be able to use the space, so that student theater could continue to grow on campus.

Krell also said getting space for rehearsals and performances is tough because the theatre and dance department has scheduling privileges, and the department restricts student use when there is a departmental production.

“There are not enough human and technical resources to support a department and student production simultaneously,” Jacobson said. “We don’t want there to be competition over resources between students and the department.”

But faculty members said they hope student theater can use the space if renovated.

Maida Withers, director of the dance program, said she “feels sorry for student groups who have no place to go.”

“The University needs to address the potential of these cultural and artistic groups, but without the adequate space, it is impossible for them to grow and improve,” Withers said.

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