Students anticipate Pelham Hall theater space

Student theater group leaders are hoping a new student life area in Pelham Hall will alleviate pressing student space concerns in Foggy Bottom.

The Campus Life Center, as the area will be called, will open in fall 2010 and host a variety of resources and new event spaces for students, including a black box theater, studio art space and a dance studio. The space will occupy the lower two levels of the residence hall, with significant space devoted to meeting and practice rooms – a welcome site for organizations that have difficulty booking space on the main campus.

“Finding rehearsal space can be rather difficult at times,” said Ben Pollack, executive producer for Forbidden Planet Productions. “Since rehearsal schedules are very likely to change as a show progresses, it becomes very difficult to schedule rooms very far in advance.”

This poses a problem for student groups, since rehearsal and event space is currently limited, and competition for its use is high.

For rehearsals, groups like Forbidden Planet Productions, 14th Grade Players and Generic Theatre Co. practice in Marvin Center, Rome and Phillips Hall and various classrooms and lounges around campus. Shows are usually held in one of three theater spaces: Mitchell Theater, Lisner Downstage and the Marvin Center theaters, which require booking a year in advance.

“As you get your directors, you divvy [space] up accordingly,” said Amanda Rhodes, executive producer for 14th Grade Players and a member of Student Theatre Council.

More space on the Mount Vernon campus for both rehearsals and shows could possibly alleviate some of the current scheduling difficulties faced by student orgs.

“We’re very excited about the new theater in Pelham,” Rhodes said. “The only problem with the Vern is that it’s the Vern and you have to take a shuttle, which means costs for extra transportation.” Student theater groups spend money to finance their own shows as well as book space at Lisner Downstage, which costs $30 per performance.

The new facilities at Pelham will be free of charge and available to all students, regardless of whether or not they live in the building.

“The fees we pay now to use the downstage [will] go toward maintaining the space such as buying new equipment and general upkeep,” Pollack said.

With more money, student theater groups can improve the quality of their sets and performances. Additional event space also allows for longer productions and extra practice time in advance of the shows..

“More time means more elaborate ideas, which means better quality productions,” Rhodes said.

Along with the black box theater, which was designed with the input of the Student Theatre Council, the Campus Life Center at Pelham will also have a recording studio, an exercise center and a new dining facility.

Options such as these are a large draw for student groups, though the space itself is the most important thing.

“FPP couldn’t be more excited about using the new space,” said Pollack. “If Pelham Hall requires the same fee [as Lisner Downstage] to maintain the space then FPP would obviously have no problem paying.”

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