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WE ARE… Performing in Lecture Halls

I’ve been involved in the Penn State performing arts scene since I was a freshman. I’ve directed, acted, produced, tech-ed, and served as an officer for No Refund Theatre. This is my third year performing with Full Ammo Improv, and my second year as their president. I was also a founder of ImprovPSU. Needless to say, I’ve reserved a lot of rooms while I’ve been a student here.

The performance space issue at Penn State is nothing new; before this semester there was a performance space that could be reserved by student organizations (IF they had a member who was a theatre major). That space was Room Six of the Arts Building. Over the summer Room Six was destroyed to convert the space into a television studio. This meant that groups like Full Ammo were forced to find a new place to perform. Since there are no available stages on campus, we went hunting for an acceptable lecture hall.

We started with the West Halls Study Lounge. Upon attempting to reserve the space this Monday for a show this Sunday night, we were told by the West Halls staff 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 because it must be reserved, “no more than 30 days in advance, and no less than 5.” So although the study lounge is unreserved this Sunday, Full Ammo will not be performing there. I wasn’t so much upset by the unnecessary restriction as I was upset by the unwillingness to be flexible during this transition period.

Next we went to the office behind the big TV in the HUB to reserve a room in the Kern building. Again this is a lecture hall that is FAR from an actual stage (DREAM BIG). Upon requesting rooms in both the Kern building and the Carnegie cinema, we were told that those spaces could not be reserved after 5 p.m. because the University is trying to conserve power. So, although those spaces will sit unreserved this Sunday, Full Ammo will not be performing there.

This led us to reserving a room in the Forum building, which apparently does not fall under the 5 p.m. curfew that Kern and Carnegie are now under. We are not the only group to run into this problem, Second Floor Stand-up has performed exclusively in the Carnegie Cinema for the past year, and they also were told that it was now unavailable. Groups like SOMA, Asylum, Pennharmonics, Singing Lions, etc. also require performance space for their events. No Refund Theatre has performed in the forum for EIGHTEEN YEARS, and they will continue to perform in that lecture hall for the foreseeable future.

No Refund Theatre produces a full student run show EVERY WEEK of the semester. They’re an incredibly committed organization that has suffered by the lack of performance spaces on campus for far too long. NRT must construct and de-construct a set every night of the week, carrying all set pieces and props to the basement of the Forum to store in a closet no bigger than a dorm room. Eight hours before your 8 a.m. class, NRT is just finishing it’s night. My question is: where are student organizations (not just performing arts groups, but all groups that want to host performances) supposed to reserve space? Why is there no theater space on campus that can be reserved by students?

The HUB has wonderful spaces to reserve, but those come with a hefty fee. Not only is the reservation process far too complicated, but the end result is a room that is not designed to host a performance. We don’t ask our club soccer teams to fill out unnecessary paper work before they can reserve a football field. As a student who is well versed in the struggles of student organizations, it is my opinion that the University isn’t just not helping the performing arts on campus, it is actively hindering them with unnecessary procedures and inane restrictions that bar groups from accomplishing their sole purpose. As you may have assumed by now, I am speaking from a place of great frustration, and I apologize if I come off hopeless. I have lots of hope for this University, and I’m very proud to be a Penn State student. Penn State has afforded me opportunities that would be simply impossible at other schools. I write this article today because I want Penn State to be even greater a University than the one it stands as today.

Thank you,
Daniel Kevin Miller
Full Ammo Improv, President

P.S. If you’re interested in supporting this cause please check out: WE ARE… Performing in Lecture Halls on Facebook, and come see Full Ammo Improv at 9 p.m. in 102 Forum this Sunday.

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