The long-awaited opening of the Royden B. Davis, S.J., Performing Arts Center last month marked a significant step toward developing and improving the arts at Georgetown. The $30 million structure is evidence of the university’s efforts to boost Georgetown’s theater programs, but a rule allowing only faculty-directed performances to take place in the new facility runs the risk of stifling the long-term growth of Georgetown’s performing arts program.

This rule prevents some of Georgetown’s most active and well-known student groups from benefiting from the entirety of the 39,600-square-foot structure. These groups – which include ask & Bauble, Nomadic Theatre and the Georgetown Players – will only be allowed to use the center’s main Gonda Theater when working in collaboration with a Georgetown faculty member.

The participants in these independent performing groups are allowed to use the classrooms and workshops to design and construct sets and costumes. It doesn’t make sense, however, for the university to allow these activities while it prevents student groups from performing in the new theater space.

Some members of on-campus theatrical groups have expressed disappointment with the university’s decision to restrict student productions at the center and question the administration’s trust in its students. It is not fair that theater groups with faculty advisors have access to the center, while those without are left in the dust. Completely student-run performances are often the most innovative and successful, and the university should pave the way for student innovation – not stand in the way.

Georgetown’s performing arts program already falls short of its potential – a problem that has traditionally been attributed to a lack of adequate facilities. Now that we have the facilities, the university should take proactive steps to encourage their use, not restrict it. By allowing student groups to use the space, administrators will strengthen existing performing arts groups, attract more student performers to the Hilltop and encourage learning both in and out of the classroom.

Generating support for and participation in performing arts should be high on the list of priorities for the university. Simply cutting a check – even one for $30 million – is not enough.

The Program for Performing Arts now has a golden opportunity to raise arts standards and move Georgetown performance into the future.

Although the Davis Center has always been slated to be a predominantly academic structure, so much of the learning process involved in performing arts takes place on a physical stage during actual performances.

The Program in Performing Arts shares a common goal with independent student performance groups of promoting the performing arts at Georgetown. They should share the full use of their facilities as well.

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