Tent acts as home for Theatre Department

The gray tent near the corner of Mason Avenue and Olympic Drive has become the temporary home of the Theatre Department.


The Performing Arts building, built in 1981, is currently being renovated to meet American Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and improve and redesign theater components.


The renovated Mainstage will have new seating for mobility-challenged audience members and will include a new box office and concessions area, according to Theatre Arts Manager Michael Sande.


A new orchestra shell has also been designed to increase audio projection, which will be supplemented by a new sound system, he said.


The Performing Arts building was built to standards at the time of its construction, but regulations have changed over the years, requiring adjustments such as larger restrooms for disabled patrons, wheelchair seating in the theater, and a re-graded ramp in front of the entrance, Sande said.


Although the department did not receive a great deal of complaints about accessibility, a number of patrons did say they would appreciate rails installed in the aisles of the Mainstage, he said.


Meanwhile, the Theatre Department has been adjusting to the temporary space, which has been in use since last semester.


Michael Gend, a design manager who has worked in the space, said that working in the tent meant encountering a new challenge everyday, requiring the technical staff to come up with new solutions on a regular basis.


“I liked to think of it as guerilla warfare theater,” he said.


For instance, when the department first entered the tent, it did not have a control room that would control the lighting and sound for productions, according to Gend.


The department then went on to spend most of last semester creating a control room from scratch.


However, some directors and performers appreciate the intimacy of the smaller space.


“The theater tent has a nice cozy feeling to it,” said Valorie Grear, professor of Theater Arts.


She admits, however, that the department is eager to return to their home in Performing Arts building.


The renovations originally had an estimated completion of Spring 2012, but the new estimate has been extended to Spring 2013.


The rented structures, including the performing tent and trailers that house classrooms and offices, will be removed once the department moves back into the renovated building.