Photo by Winston Zhou.
How does a performance group proceed when their stage is on the chopping block? They find a new stage.
The Musical Theater club, which performs every semester, is stuck in limbo after using the old theater. Located inside the Academic Services building, it will be demolished this semester to make room for the new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (ILSB). The ILSB is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2019.
The university closed the old theater for student group activities following the fall semester. Members of MTC were told that the demolition and construction of the new building would begin during this semester. No apparent progress is visible from the outside.
According to Joseph Rexing, director of design and construction services in Facilities Management, the ILSB project is on schedule and demolition will begin on May 1. Remaining occupants of Academic Services including the Registrar’s Office, Office for Academic and Pre-Professional Advising and the Meyerhoff Scholarship Office will vacate to Sherman Hall during spring break in late March.
MTC has performed four successive shows in the old theater: Urinetown (Spring 2015), The Last Ten Years (Fall 2015), The Addam’s Family (Spring 2016) and Happily Never After: A Villian’s Showcase (Fall 2016). MTC performs a showcase each fall, in which all interested students can participate. In the spring, students can audition for a part in the yearly musical. Before the old theater became available to them, they performed in a lecture hall in Fine Arts, which has since been renovated and can no longer accommodate their needs.
Their upcoming musical, Legally Blonde, will take place from April 7-9. Club leadership knew that the old theater would not be available, so they kept to a small cast of 24. However, some ensemble members have to double, triple or quadruple parts to account for the expansive number of roles that the show requires.
“It was a tough time during casting, because we had 40 or 50 people show up and only had 24 spots. We had to cut over half, which is really tough,” said junior biochemistry major Danny Morris.
For regular rehearsals, the club reserves classrooms just like other clubs on campus. Meanwhile, board members searched tirelessly for a new location, contacting the theater department, dance department, The Commons staff and student life. Senior acting major and vice president Nell Quinn-Gibney called the search “an extremely challenging and frustrating process.”
After numerous unsuccessful attempts, the club secured Fine Arts 317 for their April performance and their rehearsals the week prior. The space is currently used for dance rehearsals and classes. While MTC is grateful to the dance department for allowing them to use their space, they know that its layout will present challenges for Legally Blonde.
“It will definitely impact turnout, from the simple fact that we can’t fit nearly as many chairs in that space,” said Quinn-Gibney. “It was designed to be a rehearsal studio, not a performance space.”
The smaller space requires a minimalist set and a smaller cast than usual. They are still determining where to place the pit orchestra, which performs live music for the production.
Students are still not certain where their permanent location will be, though there is some hope. Members were told that they would be allowed to use the recital hall in Fine Arts permanently, though ongoing renovations prevented them from using it for Legally Blonde this semester.
“The University has related that the Fine Arts Recital Hall is being renovated and will be ready for use in the Fall of 2017,” said MTC advisor Stephen Caracciolo. “The Musical Theater Club expects to make every use allowable of that important performance space on campus.”