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With limited practice room time, students look for solutions to problem

by Christopher Gavin / Beacon Correspondent • February 14, 2013

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Students rehearse a dance in a Paramount performance studio.
Students rehearse a dance in a Paramount performance studio.

Samantha Evans, president of the Emerson Shakespeare Society, said she has rehearsed in conference rooms, hallways in the Tufte Center, and in residence halls during her four years at the college.  

With a high demand for space from student theater companies, acting classes, Emerson Stage, the production group of the performing arts department, and individual students, Evans said performers have to get creative in finding places to practice.

“There’s so much competition with just trying to rehearse, not even trying to [put on the show],” said the senior performing arts major. “We have the money, we have the people who are interested. It’s just, in terms of logistics, where can we be?”

The Paramount Center, which opened in 2010,  has nine rehearsal studios for theater groups, according to Brittany Burke,  assistant director of production. 

Students can book one room at a time for up to five hours, said Burke; these reservations can be made up to 48 hours in advance, and must be done in person. The rooms are open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Burke said students in the college’s work-study program and who are employed by Emerson work
at the facilities.  

“We try to end [the] day by 11 o’clock so that the staff has enough time to leave to catch the T without having to necessarily rush,” Burke said. “It also builds us in a nice contingency so that in the event that somebody has to stay a little bit later, they’re not running to catch the last train home.” 

Acting classes have priority to reserve the rooms, followed by Emerson Stage, and then student theater groups, according to Burke. 

She also said the center is in the process of updating how students sign up for the rehearsal studios through software called Event Management Systems (EMS). Requests for spaces on campus are run by the Office of the Arts, and the campus center, which both use EMS to schedule what organizations have the space at a given time, according to Burke. 

“The hope is to start accepting reservations [for the studios] online through this program,” she said. 

Burke, along with representatives from Student Life, the registrar’s office, the Office of Property Management, Information Technology and the athletic department formed a task force a few months ago to discuss this idea, although she said they do not know when the system will be implemented, according to Burke. 

Eliza Solomon. the Student Government Associaton’s performing arts senator, said she is working on an initiative to extend the hours that students can access the Paramount Center rehearsal studios, Piano Row study rooms, and offices in the Campus Center. She said the initiative will help students share the limited amount of space.

“I noticed as a performer myself, a lot of the time we’d be going to the practice rooms, and they would either not be available because so many people are looking for them, or they’d close them at inconvenient times,” Solomon said. 

Solomon said she has been working closely with Melia Bensussen, the faculty chair of the performing arts department, who wants the initiative to be implemented. 

Bensussen said she sees concern for student safety as being a potential issue for the initiative, since off-campus students will be returning to their homes
later at night. 

“I think there’s not an easy solution, but there’s got to be a better approach,” Bensussen said. “I think 11 o’clock is not working.” 

Bensussen said having inadequate space on campus is a common problem among colleges.

“I don’t know of any campus anywhere in America where space is not an issue, especially at a creative arts school,” she said. 

Briana Brochu, president of the Emerson Dance Company (EDC), said she supports the initiative.

“We could benefit from [longer hours],” said Brochu, a senior marketing communication major. “It would be opening more opportunities for choreographers.”

Brochu also said more practice time might allow for more EDC master classes, dance lessons hosted by the company that are open to all Emerson students. 

Kimberly MacCormack,  a sophomore theater studies and writing, literature and publishing double major and producing director of Rareworks Theatre Company, said the additional 45 minutes could make performing groups use the space more efficiently.

“I think [the initiative will be beneficial] presumably because maybe then we could ration time better,” MacCormack said.

Solomon said that although the initiative is only in its early stages, she has brought the initiative to the table during both joint-session and senate meetings, where it has received support by other SGA officials. She is planning on meeting with Dean of Students Ronald Ludman next week, and will also meet with the Emerson College Police Department to discuss safety issues. Burke said although she had not known about the initiative, she is open to talking to Solomon about it.

“[The initiaitive] is the only direction we can go in,” Evans said, “so might as well give it a try.”

Rebecca Fiore, Beacon Staff, contributed to this report.