Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Friday, Dec. 8
The Indiana Daily Student


Expectations mixed about new theatre

Students, professors excited to establish new traditions at center

As the curtains went down on "Waiting for Godot," Dale McFadden knew it was time to say goodbye.\nMcFadden, associate professor of theatre and drama, directed "Godot," the last play performed at the University Theatre. Although he said he is "grateful" to be moving to the facilities at the new Theatre/Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, McFadden will miss the historic and aesthetic details of the old space.\n"It was hard to say goodbye to that space," he said. "It is still an intimate theater with a very nice actor-audience relationship. I hope it continues to be well used by the University."\nSitting at her new desk in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, senior Kenyatta Humphrey also reflects on saying goodbye. Humphrey worked at the center's Ashton location for three years. The new location brings the center closer to the students, but memories of working in Ashton may remain closer to Humphrey's heart.\n"It was a more personal space," she said. "It felt more like home." \nWith the opening of the new Theatre/Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, students and staff are saying both fond -- and for some, not so fond -- farewells to former facilities. Both departments are celebrating the opening of doors to new opportunity. But they are also marking the end of an era. \nFor the Department of Theatre and Drama, this means saying goodbye to a building it has called home for more than 60 years. Despite the dark hallways, scratched floors and dated equipment, the building is also home to the memories that come from years of classes, productions, opening nights and curtain calls.\n"I'll miss (the old building) because it's an old friend," said Leon Brauner, a theatre professor and department chair. "I've gotten used to it, and I know how I can make it work."\nAlthough the old African-American Culture Center was only located in the Ashton-Coulter building for about three years, students and staff said the building became a home where they knew they could always find family. \n"In the old center, you could come in, sit down and just chill," junior Ryon Cobb said. "The new building will take getting used to, but prayerfully it will come to (be a place) where you can come in, sit around and laugh."\nDespite sad feelings over saying goodbye, students and faculty are happy to say hello to more space, more windows and more possibilities.\nBreath of fresh air\nFor Grace Jackson-Brown, the new building means finally having space to "dance around in."\nAs head librarian of the Black Culture Center Library, Jackson-Brown has gone from occupying one room in the renovated sorority house at the original Black Culture Center location to seven hot, windowless dorm rooms at the center's Ashton location. \nWorking out of the Ashton space, she said, took a lot of creativity.\n"We had to convert a dorm to where it had space for a library and study space," Jackson-Brown said. "We had to remove walls and have all our wooden shelves put in and create computer space. It was very cramped."\nThe new library is situated on about the same place where the original Black Culture Center stood. But things couldn't be more different.\nInstead of one small room, the library has three large ones to accommodate books, computers and traveling exhibits. It's gone from having no windows to having a whole wall full that looks out onto the traffic of Jordan Avenue.\n"I was totally exuberant," Jackson-Brown said of the new space. "There is so much space for the collections, and they are comfortable areas. It was difficult to get around at the old building."\nThe cramped conditions and remote location prevented students from really settling down to study or browse in the old space, Jackson-Brown said. \n"It's nice down there," Humphrey said of the library. "It's a place where you can study and be more efficient (than at Ashton)."\nBoth Jackson-Brown and Humphrey said they hope the new spaces will increase attendance at the library and at culture center programs. Although Humphrey said things have changed now that the staff and students are sharing a building and following the rules that come with new spaces, accessibility is definitely a plus.\n"Attendance was not that good at Ashton," she said. "…This is close to campus. It's very convenient. You can go to class and then be here in five minutes or less."\nCurrently, both the library and the upstairs offices, meeting rooms and practice studios for students, administrative staff and ensembles have a half-finished feeling. Boxes sit opened on the floor, unrolled, colorful posters lean against walls and the furniture and wood still give off the sharp "new" smell. Sitting at a computer in the library, Ryon Cobb said he hopes that will soon change.\n"Hopefully we can carry over the same spirit Mrs. Paulk (late director of the culture center) worked to create," he said.\nPreparing for 'opening night'\nDespite some sadness at saying goodbye to the old place, Leon Brauner's excitement over the move is evidenced by how quickly he offers to give tours of the new Theatre and Drama Center. \nAs he walked through the courtyard, he pointed out ledges built to give students room to sit and enjoy the sunshine.\n"Theater people are people people," he said.\nWalking through the scene shop, Brauner pointed out the doors leading directly to the new Wells Metz Theatre, a far cry from the old basement scene shop, which required students and faculty to bring scenery upstairs through a maze of hallways to the University Theatre. \nWes Peters, associate professor of theatre and drama, said these obstacles limited the height of sets. In the T300 theater, set designers were limited to nine-foot sets while sets for the University Theatre could only be about 16 feet high. Peters' first set in the new building, for the upcoming "Much Ado About Nothing," tops out at 26 feet tall.\n"The old facility was sort of falling apart," he said. "We did decent art in it, but it was always an uphill struggle fighting the building."\nSome new equipment was also installed in the new building, including computers for technical drawing and artwork. \nThe new equipment will share the room with building supplies, rehearsal furniture and other equipment. In the upstairs costume shop, swatches, dummies and hatblocks for shaping share space with new long tables and some new sewing machines.\nBrauner said the biggest advantage of the new Theatre and Drama Center is it shows students "what good means, so in life they now know what they are trying to attain."\n"The challenges will finally just be educational challenges," he said. "Those are the challenges we want; it won't be dumb ones that get in the way. Those challenges just take a lot out of you at the end of the day. You spend so much energy just trying to do work."\nAlthough the struggles of making things work in a difficult environment helped bring the staff and students together, Peters said he hopes the new facility will do the same.\n"There's a camaraderie and excitement about being able to see your colleagues and bounce ideas off them," he said.

Get stories like this in your inbox