Campus theater spaces hard to come by

by Sydney Zuckerman / Beacon Staff • November 10, 2016

High demand for Emerson’s only free performance space—Little Building’s Cabaret, which will close this December for renovations—has forced some student theater groups to seek locations outside the college to showcase their work.

Robert Colby, a professor in the performing arts department, said the Cabaret is a useful space, but it could be better.  

“Students have clearly used the [Cabaret] space day-in and day-out,” Colby said. “The sign-up for it would disappear in minutes, it’s constantly in use.”

Student Government Association Performing Arts Senator and freshman performing arts major Nicole Gabriel said she is working to organize a meeting with Performing Arts Department Chair Melia Bensussen and representatives from the Office of the Arts to discuss this issue.  

“Obviously my goal would be to get some more free spaces on campus for student group,” Gabriel said. “But I mostly just want some clear open communication between [the Office of the Arts] and the student body.”

This cost is especially difficult for performing arts groups that stage multiple shows per semester. Despite price cuts, it still costs students approximately $1,500 to rent spaces such as the Greene or Semel Theaters for two or three days, Ryan Kane, a sophomore performing arts major and member of Mercutio Troupe, said.

“We’d be spending all of our money just to reserve a space, and then have no money to have costumes, and props, and the set to put it on,” Kane said. “So it’s kind of just very hindering to anything you can do student-theater wise.”   

The Office of the Arts did not respond to requests for comment.

Emerson Student Government Association funds most performance organizations, but this money is not allowed to be spent outside of Emerson, Kane said.

Associate Vice President of Communications Carole McFall said there is another option for students. If they can not find an on-campus spot to meet their needs, then she, along with other administrators, can help find a suitable off-campus location.

“Staff and administration are looking for other options to keep costs down, to make sure that we’re not passing on a financial burden to the student theater organizations,” SGA Executive President Emily Solomon said. “We’re making sure that the student voice is not forgotten in all of this.”  

Kidding Around, whose theatrical performances are exclusively for children, used the Boston Public Library as a stage this October when they performed The Hobbit. The group’s artistic director, Khyati Sehgal, said that although schedule struggles with the Cabaret are inconvenient, they benefits her organization in the long run.  

“It’s sort of forcing us to look around and see what other newfound spaces we can use to bring a wider range of audience members to our shows,” Sehgal said.