45,000 Students…No Performance Space?
The meek shall inherit the…nothing? That’s what it seems like lately at Penn State, if you take out “meek” and replace it with “performing arts groups.” For all the dozens of performing arts groups at Penn State, our fine, state-sponsored University has not a single performing arts space for student organizations. Groups like No Refund Theater, Full Ammo Improv, The Thespians, and countless acapella groups that desire a location to perform have been left recently having to scavenge for large lecture halls. An existent problem for many years, the limited number of performance space has come to the breaking point.
Take the example of Full Ammo Improv. Formed in 2004, Full Ammo Improv (FAI) is one of the most prominent improv groups on campus. The group puts on free shows twice a month, and is an extremely popular attraction. Since their formation, FAI has been performing in the one performance room available on campus for student organizations, room 6 in the Arts Building. This room was used and shared by multiple groups and, despite the competition for the room, was an acceptable space. However, over the summer room 6 was torn down and converted into a studio for a television show. So FAI and other groups went searching for new spaces. FAI presiden Daniel Miller first thought to reserve the West Halls study lounge.
“Upon attempting to reserve the space on Monday we were told by the West Halls Coordinator that we had to register an account online and then reserve the space using the new online reservation tool. Registering online is a 2-day process, and upon completion of that process we learned that we couldn’t reserve the space there because it must be reserved, ‘no more than 30 days in advance, and no less than 5.’ Although the study lounge is not reserved this Sunday, Miller said Full Ammo will not be performing there.
Miller next tried to reserve rooms in Kern and the Carnegie Cinema, but was told that those buildings could not be reserved after 5 p.m. because the university is trying to conserve power. This seemingly green-friendly initiative has affected many groups, including the popular group Second Floor Stand-up that has performed in the Carnegie Cinema for the last year. Full Ammo Improv finally reserved a lecture hall in the Forum building, where No Refund Theatre has also been performing for the past eighteen years. By performing in the Forum, groups sacrifice basic performance amenities like stage lighting and curtains.
While our University has many theaters (Playhouse Theatre, Eisenhower Auditorium, Heritage Hall, etc.), these spaces are reserved solely for the School of Theatre, or require groups to pay a hefty fee that student groups can’t afford. Daniel Miller recently appeared before UPUA and implored them to look into the issue. It’s a shame that in a University that prides itself on offering opportunities for students of all interests, organizations that want to put on free shows to entertain their fellow students must resort to performing in lecture halls. We are…better than that.