Since the opening of the Royden B. Davis, S.J., Performing Arts Center last month, restrictions on student-led performance groups have led some students to express concern about space availability in the new $30-million building.

The Davis Center features two theaters, two rehearsal spaces, a costume shop, a scene shop, dressing rooms and maintenance areas, in addition to art classrooms and office areas. Not all of these spaces are open to every student performance group on campus, however.

As an academic facility, the Performing Arts Center will only host theater productions directed by faculty members, not students, administrators said. This restriction prevents several student performance groups, including Mask & Bauble, Nomadic Theater and the Georgetown Players, from utilizing the two theaters for their own productions.

Maya Roth, director of the theater program and artistic director of the performing arts program, said some students believe that academic groups are trying to take student organizations out of the theater community. She said that these fears are unfounded.

“It’s an academic building, so it’s to support the growth of the academic programs,” Roth said. “We’ve been trying to grow the programs and not infringe on student groups.”

The decision to control student involvement at the new facility stemmed from the center’s affiliation with Georgetown College and primary role as a research facility dedicated to the development of the academic theater program, Roth said.

“If there’s a chemistry club, [Georgetown College Dean Jane McAuliffe] doesn’t give over the keys to the lab to the group,” Roth said. “This is a research space.”

Many students have expressed a desire to be able to employ all of the resources offered by the new building, however.

“I’m not sure it’s hit most of us yet that it will only be available for teacher-directed shows,” said Kate Nolan (COL ’06), associate producer of Nomadic Theater. “The general feeling in the theater community is that the Davis Center is going to be an amazing asset to theater in general, and all the clubs are trying to find ways of getting in.”

Nolan said that many of the members of the student theater groups are disappointed with the decision to restrict student involvement, which has made some students question the administration’s faith in its students.

“The fact that only professors will have the chance to really work in the building, I personally feel is frustrating, and the majority of those who know are upset and feel like we were misled,” she said. “But I can’t say there’s an over-arching sentiment in the community as of yet.”

Roth said that the Performing Arts Center will benefit all members of the theater community because it looks to foster theatrical diversity on campus and will better allow different theater groups to collaborate on performances.

Nolan said that Nomadic plans to collaborate with faculty member Karen Berman to produce “Dr. Korzak and the Children” this spring. The production will be the first show in the Devine Theater and will make Nomadic the first student group to perform there.

Becky Bavinger (COL ’06), deputy president of the Georgetown Players, a student-directed performance group, expressed excitement at the prospect of expanding the theater department and said that the new facility is “a step in the right direction” for campus theater programs.

“It should provide a forum for future collaboration between academia and theatre that will enable the student theatre groups to present different styles and capabilities,” Bavinger said.

The additional space created by Performing Arts Center has opened up different areas for rehearsals and productions, Sami Ghazi (MSB ’06), executive producer for Mask and Bauble, said. She said that different venues that are usually difficult to secure, such as the Walsh Building’s black box, have become more available for use by student groups since the completion of the new Performing Arts Center.

Roth added that the Black Theatre Ensemble also has a faculty director, which would make it easy for them to use the stages if they wished to .

Nolan also said that there are several different ways student groups have started to benefit from the opening of the Davis Center. The state-of-the-art costume and set design studios are already being used by the theater groups, she said.

“We have already seen the benefits of working in the new scene shop and costume shop to construct sets and costumes,” Ghazi said. “Using the new resources in a larger space has meant student shows have been able to construct their sets and costumes much more efficiently, making the process a lot easier.”

The theater will also be available for theater majors’ thesis projects, and there have been discussions over how to incorporate the university’s music programs into the space, too.

“We’re trying to see how we can make [the Davis Center] good for music now that it’s great for theater,” Roth said.

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