The Show Must Go On

December 6, 2016

By Melissa Rohman

Every academic year, concerts, lectures, theatre productions and more are held at Dominican’s Lund Auditorium and Martin Recital Hall. However, renovations and updates have been overlooked and are greatly needed for both theaters.

“What needs to be updated? Everything,” junior and general theatre arts major Melanie Thompson said. “We need theaters and a Fine Arts building that represents the caliber of work that we do and we do a whole lot of amazing work.”

Thompson has been involved with the Theatre Arts department since her freshman year and is studying both performance and technical theatre and works in the scene shop regularly.

She explains that though the current state of Dominican’s theaters has presented challenges, the Theatre Arts department makes do with what they currently have.

“I will say this: give a theater person a rock and they’ll make a castle,” Thompson said. “We make do every semester and create amazing things with our space in spite of all of the foundational issues in the building. But that’s not fair. Why do we have to make a way when we should already have one?”

Fellow junior theatre arts major Andre Payne-Guillory has been involved in theater for two years, performing in shows and working in the scene shop. He explains how the fly rail system in the Lund is in dire need of attention as many of the rails are crooked, making weighing and balancing anything a struggle.

Krista Hansen, the current chair of the Theatre Arts and Music department and artistic director for the Theatre Arts Lab Series, is in her 14th year working at Dominican. She oversees the department’s administrative, budgetary and curricular needs, teaches, selects shows, as well as oversees all administrative, contractual, budgetary, marketing/PR, artistic and technical components. 

Hansen expresses how she wants to improve both the student and audience experience in the Lund and the Martin, as well as in the entire Fine Arts building. If necessary funds were available, repairs, renovations and updates to both the Lund and the Martin would include: updating rehearsal spaces for music, dance and theatre classes, expanding the costume and scene shop, purchasing sound, lighting and media equipment, installing more accessible and conveniently located bathrooms and dressing rooms, acquiring new and more comfortable seats, expanding the cramped Lund lobby and making the Lund and its lobby more handicap accessible. 

Samantha Barr, production coordinator for the Performing Arts Center, has been here for the past five years. She maintains equipment in the Lund and Martin and manages and trains student staff. Barr has vast experience and understands the expense of maintaining a theater. 

“Running and managing a theater is extremely expensive, as is keeping up the never ending advances in technology, and infrastructure updates,” Barr said.  “We are behind in our updates and it shows.”

She explained that the Lund and Martin experienced sound related issues, including lack of clarity, volume issues and major problems with controlling the temperature in both theaters. However, new dimmers were installed in 2014 and six years ago the Martin had new seats installed, according to Barr.

“We want our audiences to have an amazing experience from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave,” Barr said. “However, every year the staff spends about a week taping, stitching, and WD40-ing the Lund seats in an attempt to keep what we have in as best working order as we can. We do what we can.”

Associate Theatre Arts professor Bill Jenkins started teaching at Dominican in 2003 and has been working as the technical director, resident designer and faculty member. He designs scenery and lighting and oversees construction and technical preparations.

“Compared to many other theatre programs our size and at comparable schools we are indeed very fortunate,” Jenkins said. “However, we must remember that these facilities are over half a century old. It is difficult to attract incoming students when these are the only options we can show them.”

Jenkins expresses how the over half a century old Fine Arts building is difficult and expensive to maintain and how keeping up with theatre technology is vital for the education of students as well as the quality of shows, productions and events.

“Studying at Dominican to incoming students seems like a step backwards in time even though we may offer comparable advantages and opportunities in other areas,” Jenkins said. “When compared to other universities, we simply can’t compete for their attention.”

Hansen understands that putting on performances of quality requires time and money, however she strongly believes there has been a lack of funding for the arts.

“The University is helpful with providing supplemental resources, but additional funding is needed and must be aggressively pursued,” Hansen said. “Unfortunately, we are left to this latter task on our own. While I understand that asking people for money must be limited, and there are other areas of campus also in need of updates and funding, the arts doesn’t ever seem to be named among them as a target area.”

Barr explains that although the Lund and the Martin are just theaters, they are a place welcoming to all events and people. Jenkins expresses same concerns in that the arts are not optional.

“Creativity is an integral part of living a meaningful and satisfying life,” Jenkins said. “We have a theatre facility that is the envy of many, but the world of the theatre outside our campus community is changing and we must change, grow and keep up with the industry. If we do not, we will be unable to fulfill our responsibility as educators to the next generation of theatre artists.”

According to Thompson, being apart of Dominican’s performing arts department means everything to her.

“Being in the department, and apart of the productions on these stages has helped me to embrace the parts of me that I had not known were there,” Thompson said. “I discovered myself in this department.”

Hansen speaks for the entire theatre arts staff, faculty and students stating that the Lund and Martin are home and that the arts are important.

“The arts are a lifeblood for a college campus—we provide the humanity side of things in ways that discussion or lecture cannot,” Hansen said. “We are experiential, providing opportunity for people of various cultures and perspectives to collaborate and communicate in specialized ways, often expanding the mind and hearts of those involved.”