The active theater and dance scene at Wesleyan has resulted in scheduling difficulties for student-run theater organization Second Stage this semester, as they vie with the Center for the Arts (CFA) and academic departments for limited space in the Patricelli ’92 Theater.
“The ’92 Theater is a shared space and Second Stage maintains it, so we try to have as many of our shows as we can in the ’92,” said Second Stage member Blair Laurie ‘12. “But there are a lot of groups who want to use the space, and the issue now is that Second Stage has 11 shows that want to use the ‘92 this semester and we were only left with four weekends after the CFA scheduled all of their events.”
According to Director of the CFA Pamela Tatge ’84, schedules for both the ’92 Theater and the CFA Theater are created collaboratively by a committee that includes the Dean of the Arts and Humanities, the Director and Associate Directors of the CFA, the Chairs of Theater and Dance, the Technical Director of Theater and Dance, and the Manager of the Chapel/’92 who serves as the liaison to Second Stage. The committee meets in early December and again in April to create and confirm the schedule for the following school year.
According to Tatge, Dance and Theater sponsored faculty and student productions, including thesis productions, are scheduled first, followed by CFA events. Remaining weekends are set aside for Second Stage to schedule student productions.
Laurie said Second Stage has seen an increased number of applications for shows recently. There has also been a trend towards directing musicals, which Laurie says are especially hard to put on outside of a fully equipped theater such as the ’92.
“It’s always been a shared space,” Laurie said. “Every semester we have the CFA and departments putting their events in there and then we schedule around that, but this is the first time that we’ve had so few weekends to use.”
Alan Rodi ’12 is a music major who plans to do a full scale production as part of his senior thesis. Rodi scheduled his production, “Mao: The Musical,” for this fall, but has faced difficulties finding a space for his show during the two weeks that he is able to put on his production. None of the spaces available during that time are suitable for a musical.
“The ’92 offers the most staging freedom out of any space and the issue this semester is that many students feel that it has been becoming less and less of a student space over the course of many years,” Rodi said. “This is something that students need to be vocal about, and need to question what our role is in the space. While it is a University space, it is my understanding that the donors intended for it to be primarily a student space.”
According to Tatge, scheduling problems should be limited to this semester. She noted that the fall schedule is especially busy because there are two CFA events scheduled in the ’92 this semester, while typically only one would be scheduled per year. Additionally, there is a senior theater thesis in the ’92 this semester when there was not one last year.
Tatge said that she notified Second Stage representatives about the scheduling difficulties last spring and attempted to research potential alternative spaces for student productions but none were available.
“We know that this is going to be difficult, and we’re going to try to support students finding alternative spaces, but the fact is that we do not have many theatrical spaces on campus with theatrical lighting and technical capabilities,” she said. “Alternative spaces are fine for certain types of work but not for works that have more production needs including theatrical lighting.”
Laurie identified WestCo Café, the Memorial Chapel, Crowell Concert Hall, and Beckham Hall as potential alternative spaces for productions but noted that it is difficult for students to book these spaces due to competition with the CFA shows, as well as other student performances by a cappella and dance groups.
“Because seven of our shows are trying to find alternative spaces, they’re also competing with each other to find space, and it’s hard,” Laurie said. “All of these spaces, I’d say, are less ideal than the ’92 Theater.”
The large volume of both CFA events and applications for student productions has prompted discussion about who should get priority in the scheduling of events.
“We want to be able to negotiate with everyone who wants to use the ’92 Theater, but we do think that it should be first and foremost for student use,” Laurie said. “It’s really the only fully equipped space that we have to produce student theater here on campus, and it would be great if more students had the opportunity to use that theater.”