Theater leaders address Lisner downstage concerns

Members of various student theater groups came together Saturday at Lisner Auditorium afternoon to voice concerns regarding the lack of usable space on campus where they can perform. The students met in Lisner downstage – the black box theater where their ability to produce musicals is severely restricted.

Leaders in student theater groups encouraged the more than 60 students present from Forbidden Planet Productions, Generic Theatre Company, 14th Grade Players and Majority Productions to unite, engage in fundraising and embrace the Pelham Hall black box theater at Mount Vernon, which is slated for completion in 2010.

“We are all realizing that we are all under the same umbrella, and we all want to perform and put on shows,” said sophomore Scout Seide, fund director of the Student Theater Advocacy Group, which was started last week.

This semester, student theater groups have struggled to find acceptable places for some of their musicals, including the upcoming rock opera, “Tommy.” Officials at Lisner Auditorium will not allow the theater groups to perform musicals if they occur when there is a show happening on Lisner’s main stage due to sound bleeding.

Generic Theatre Company, which is putting on “Tommy,” will have the show in the Mitchell Hall theater next month, instead of Lisner downstage.

“There are a lot of spaces on campus and we are trying to make the best use of all of them,” Seide said.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center, said the University is in the process of remodeling the Mitchell Hall theater and there will be significant improvements to the theater’s stage, lighting and sound by the time the theater becomes home to “Tommy.” He said GW has spent $5,000 on a new sound system for the theater and will invest several thousand more dollars into the future improvement of the theater.

“Right now, my sole focus is to get ‘Tommy’ happening,” Miller said.

Student theater leaders said they would continue to use Lisner downstage for plays, including “Crave,” which will be performed later this week. They said that despite the need to sound proof the performance space for musicals that occur during main stage shows, they are not being forced to vacate Lisner downstage.

“I know that one of the rumors going around is that the only way we can stay in Lisner Downstage is (through) sound-proofing,” Seide said, adding, “(Sound proofing) is really not all that simple and really not cheap. It is a long-term goal.”

Seide said in order to make these improvements, the student theater community must engage in aggressive fundraising. She said the students would soon start selling pins, T-shirts and other goods to raise money for student theater.

“We are going to need to do a lot of fundraising,” Seide said. “Right now, student theater doesn’t do any.”

Although they are having problems at Lisner Auditorium, student theater leaders emphasized their excitement about the future of student theater at the black box theater at Pelham Hall.

“Yeah, there is a huge stigma against the Vern,” Seide said. “But our friends and family see us here and they will see us there.”

Junior Jillian Pitzer, president of the Student Theater Council, said the prospect of new theater space does not mean that student theater groups should neglect the space they have.

“We have to take care of the space we have,” Pitzer said. “We don’t take care of these spaces we have.”

Student theater members in attendance said they appreciated the opportunity to sit down and discuss ways to improve their situation.

“I think the positive message is important,” said sophomore Samantha Dercher, artistic director of FPP. “It is very easy to see the negatives, but there are so many things we can do to improve our situation.”

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