Students vie to find practice space

by Mike Disman / Beacon Staff • February 2, 2012

Rehersal matt
Students line up in the early morning to book performance space on a first come first serve basis.
Students line up in the early morning to book performance space on a first come first serve basis.

A year after college officials opened more campus practice studios for space-strapped performance groups — many of whom were forced into hallways and classrooms to prepare for shows  —  student organizations still struggle to book rooms.

Though the Office of the Arts opened 10 more studios after dancers and actors found themselves practicing routines in darkened hallways in the Paramount Center or other large campus spaces last year, performers said they face fierce competition for the 14 spaces on campus.

Many of the organization members vying for the space arrive as early as 7:55 a.m., hoping to ensure that they secure space for their club when the desk opens at 9 a.m., according to Wynn Harrison, senior class president and artistic director of Emerson Urban Dance Theatre (EUDT).

“You’re not going to get the studio that you want every time,” said Harrison. “But at the same time, that’s life.”

Currently, individual students or members of one of the 16 Student Government Associated accredited performance groups line up before the desk when the third floor of the Paramount Atrium opens and attempt to vie for space in one of the 14 practice rooms. According to Bonnie Baggesen, director of production and facilities for the Office of the Arts, they are assigned on a first come, first serve basis.

Baggesen said her department is working on the reconstruction of the rehearsal space policy. In the potential new system, which may take a year to implement, organizations would sign up for space electronically, eliminating the need for the early morning struggle for position, according to Baggesen.

Administrators will also allow students to become part of the Office of the Arts’ decision making process by passing out a survey to any student who wishes to take it, according to Baggesen. This survey will gauge whether or not the hours of the studios successfully meet the needs of Emerson’s students, said Baggesen. 

When Harrison was a freshman, the Paramount Center and Colonial Building practice rooms had not been built. If organizations could not book practice rooms in Piano Row or Little Building in time, she said, they were often forced to practice in lobbies or basements.

“It probably looked like a flash [mob] dance,” said Harrison. “When I look back on my college experience and remember dancing in a lobby freshman year, I’m going to laugh.” 

While EUDT was just approved by the SGA this year, Harrison and others in the organization have been booking practice space since the club’s inception five years ago. Individuals and members of non-SGA approved organizations who need the space can also book the space for themselves or their club, meaning that the 14 practice rooms have to accommodate anyone who needs to use them.

Harrison said she has used the early morning commitment to test the drive of EUDT’s newest members, and said that those who were willing to wake up early and stand in line for their club often went on to become EUDT executives.

“It’s taught the new members to really take ownership, and they get really excited to do something for EUDT,” said Harrison.

Harrison said that although she sees some of the system’s benefits, many at Emerson want to perform, and there might not always be space for everyone.

Groups such as the Musical Theater Society, which uses the rooms five evenings throughout the week for the two productions that they generally have in rehearsal, will be most affected by any changes to the system.

Advisory president to the society, Braden Joyce-Schleimer, said that while the system is imperfect, the Office of the Arts is working closely with students and is very accommodating, putting on a forum last year to discuss possible changes to the system.

If Joyce-Schleimer ever finds his group without space to practice in, he said that the other performance groups are willing to collaborate to temporarily mend any cracks in the surface. However, he said that he would prefer a more standardized system.

“I wish it never got competitive,” said Joyce-Schleimer, “but people are quick to forget how it was before the Paramount center opened. There were only four rooms in the Colonial, and they had pillars in the middle of them. It is much better now.”