By Nicole Curcio
The Little Theatre, next to the Theatre, Dance, and Arts Management Building, located across from the library, does not have sufficient heat or air conditioning, according to students in the theater department who performed in the recent “Trojan Barbie” production.
The building, which was part of the original Post estate, is now used as a black box theatre by theatre, musical theatre, and dance students for their performances throughout the school year.
With rigorous vocal and physical work, improper ventilation puts a strain on the performers, students say. The facilities department did not respond to the Pioneer’s inquiries about the lack of air conditioning in the building.
For the talent on stage, overheating is a major issue. Senior theatre major, Angela Downs, was part of the cast of “Trojan Barbie,” which ran from Oct. 7 to Oct. 16. Downs battled with stagnant heat that consumed the backstage. “I had to wear a tight corset and there were times when it was too hot in the back and I felt like I was going to faint. It wasn’t from the corset, it was just too hot,” she said. “The dressing rooms are the worst because we have the mirror lights on and the doors shut. There are so many people in there at once, all moving and in a hurry.”
There is one window in each dressing room. However, because the dressing rooms are technically underground, the windows barely help. “We can open the window, but it opens up to basically what is just a hole in the ground,” Downs added.
On stage, matters only get worse once the lights hit the overheated performers, students allege. Audience members do not have the same experience as the performers because they do not have lights beaming on them. Yet, it can get uncomfortable for the audience too, according to Post Theatre Company’s general manager, Heather Drastal.
“We do not usually produce shows in the summer, but in the early fall and spring it does get really hot in here,” Drastal said. “There is a ventilation system that was recently repaired when we had a new roof put on, but it is not an air conditioned building.”
The staff behind the scenes at the shows is having a similar experience as the performers on stage. Gabrielle McAree, the assistant director of “Trojan Barbie,” had issues with her contacts from the dusty, dry environment that comes from lack of ventilation. The junior musical theatre major had to continuously put in contact solution because of itchy eyes. McAree mentioned that cast members got sick during the week because of the long hours around insufficient air supply.
“It would definitely help to have an upgrade or new appliances in the theatre,” she said. “Performers are in the theatre rehearsing for four and a half hours a day and they should have proper air and heat!”
The issue with updating the ventilation system is the age of the building. “I know that it requires major funding to install a cooling system into a building this old, which is why it has not been done yet,” Drastal said. “There has been discussion about it on numerous occasions over that last several years, so I know it is on the radar of the University.”
Cara Gargano, chair of the theatre, film, dance and arts management departments recognizes the efforts facilities puts into the building. “One of the things about our facilities is that they are very specific,” Gargano said. “They spent a fortune on giving us proper equipment and we are in constant discussion about how we can improve. Personally, I am very grateful.” Facilities did not provide any information on their plans for the theatre.
Although the space can be a challenge to work in, theatre majors are nonetheless grateful to have it. “I think it is pretty wonderful of the faculty to let us use the space as freely as they do. It really is our home,” Downs said. “I know of other schools with better conditions, but they are so particular about it that the students don’t get to use it to their convenience.”