While a season of change can be both good and bad, associate professor of theatre Laura Smiley chooses to see the good side of the Theatre department’s temporary relocation.
The department, which previously resided in Miller Auditorium, moved in late August to the University Union. Professor Smiley is ecstatic as she tells about being in the “new” venue, which includes an acting classroom, technical classroom, costume shop, stage/theater area, computer lab, and more.
“We actually have more space over here than we did in Miller,” she said. “The acting classroom is the old bookstore. It’s just this big, empty room with pillars in it, and we have twenty chairs and a big open space. At first it was like wow. It was difficult sometimes to fit everybody in the classroom [in Miller Auditorium].”
Katie Makufka, 22, a senior psychology major and theatre minor who works in the costume closet, is also excited about how much space the university union has to offer.
“There are a lot of possibilities here for what we can use this space for,” Makufka said. “We have this whole downstairs area. I look forward to the new shows and the new challenges we’ll have and figuring those out.”
While the theatre offices are on the second level of the union, and the theater itself is in the union’s multi-purpose room, the basement area of the union contains both the acting and design classroom, and the scene shop, as well as the new costume shop, which is inside what used to be Rocky’s dining hall.
According to Professor Smiley, the costume shop was one of the most difficult areas of Miller Auditorium to relocate.
“It was a huge thing to move the entire costume closet,” she said. “We had one closet that was all shoes. There were tons of storage closets full of different costumes.”
Samantha Kochta, 19, a sophomore dual major in theatre and communication, helped out with the move.
“The move went pretty well,” Kochta said. “It was just hard because of the abundance of stuff in Miller. We had costumes, props, and lights.”
Having just moved a majority of the items from Miller Auditorium to the Union this past weekend, there’s still a lot of unpacking to do, according to Makufka.
[We’re] just getting everything organized and out of boxes,” she said. “You look at a section of cardboard boxes and get a little overwhelmed.”
“But we’ll plug through it and get everything done,” she said. “We’re still trying to figure out where we can store certain things.”
Being in the new space can also encourage creativity, according to Professor Smiley.
“That’s part of the challenge. That’s part of the fun of being here,” she said. “We’re also thinking about exploring other venues on campus.”
“Where else might you do a show? One year we couldn’t use Miller Auditorium, we pitched a circus tent and did a show outside in a circus tent,” she said. “One time, we used the loading dock in the back.”
“We’re trying to think outside of the box,” she said.
“For now, we’re just going to get used to this space and figure out what we can and can’t do, and then after that, what about the equestrian area,” Smiley said. “There’s a show I’d love to do at the pool in the water. There are just lots of ideas.”
Makufka also looked forward to the opportunities available while temporarily relocated.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting experience for everyone involved, being able to use this space and other spaces and figuring out how to put on great shows here,” she said.
As a stage manager and props mistress, Kochta found the idea of spatial design freedom very enticing.
“Now we can pick and choose how we want to play in our space, so we get to make cool design choices if we want to,” she said.
Kochta admitted that the move to the union has helped prepare her for adjusting to change later in life.
“We could run into smaller things like this in the real world, so for now all of us are getting the experience and getting what we can out of it,” she said.
Smiley said she feels certain that the relocation doesn’t mean that the college or prospective theatre students should have any reason to doubt the authenticity of the theatre program.
“I think [the move is] a challenge, but the opportunities are still here in the acting program,” she said. “If [students] are open to the idea of being creative, it’s like they get to create their own space and set up lighting and build the stage. I think that can be very exciting for the right people. There will still be great acting opportunities. It will be a new experience for them. We have a crew of new students this year and they’re all pretty excited.”