The Problem With Strebel Auditotium

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Photo by Chantelle Boateng

Amajla Tricic, News Editor

UC’s theater majors recently finished their last performance of the semester, and while the Strebel Auditorium is home to their plays and musicals for years, some of the students want the space to be updated.

There have been complaints that the equipment and auditorium itself need to better accommodate the students who need to rehearse, take classes and perform in the space.

Cormac McCambridge, a student in the theatre department, said the problem is less with the equipment and more the space itself.

“We have frequent and recurring pipe leaks that only tend to be fixed temporarily and have been having issues with power as well,” he said.  “Neither of these are particularly new problems, but whenever [anything] is done about them, the solution provided is only temporary at best.”

Crystal Hayner, who is also a part of the major, adds that because the space has been in use for so long, things start to deteriorate and lose function. Hayner says she loves the space but agrees that it needs a change.

“For our theater program, we are trying to create a theater major, and if we want that to happen we honestly need our own building like the construction management building,” she said.

Hayner said that a fly rail system needs to be installed in order to fly scenery in and out as well as pipes for lighting use. Other things she said need to be added is better technology, like a light board, someone to train students on the soundboard, getting new electrical lighting fixtures and a new carpentry shop and paint area.

“The biggest issue we’ve had is the cafeteria up above the theater,” Hayner said. “Their water piping is above the theatre and there have been numerous times when pipes have burst either on stage during a performance or backstage during a show or rehearsal. This is dangerous because a pipe could burst over an electrical fixture when it’s on, and can cause an electrical fire.”

Hayner hopes to see improvement in the space, but she knows that getting someone to help look at the issues will take a long time.

“For instance, two weeks before our show “Arcadia” went up for production, we had issues with the electric in our scene shop and other places,” she said. “We requested someone to come fix it and it took them until tech week to come in and figure out how to fix it.”

She added that she would like the program to have their own building, but if they cannot have that, then they need “a big cleanout and makeover.”

Katherine Haight, who is also involved in the theater program, said that the equipment in the booth is relatively up-to-date but that the rest of the theater is a different story.

“Many of the lights we use are older then most of the students,” she said. “The theater itself needs to get updated. There are many leaks throughout the theater.”

Laura Salvaggio, faculty theatre director at UC, said the issue of equipment and space is a much more complex situation than just needing updating. She explained a lot of the equipment is “current and wonderful” but that Strebel is an old building that was built when Utica College was much smaller with a less technology-driven community.

“The old building has typical old building problems that are complicated by odd architectural design decisions,” she said. “For example, there’s a stage full of electrical equipment under a cafeteria full of water use. The infrastructure is just behind where we are as an institution.”

She added there are very few performance venues on campus, and the student body is much larger than it used to be so Strebel Auditorium is an extremely busy place. Because the space is constantly used she believes there is never enough time to fully recover from one event before proceeding to the next.

“The different events get in each other’s way and wear and tear happens more quickly than it should,” she said.  “When things break, it’s always an emergency because there is always an event about to happen.”

Salvaggio said she does know there are people in the administration and facilities who have been looking into these problems and who work very hard to fix them promptly.

“It’s a thankless job, as there are always new issues presenting themselves,” she said.

Salvaggio said the real solution will be a donor who wants to fund a building for the arts on campus, one that includes more performance space.

“In the meantime, I know there are plans for updates to create an acting classroom to take some of the pressure off of Strebel, and I do believe that the new plans for the Newman Center may help provide one more place for events to happen,” she said. “These are small steps toward conquering a pretty large issue, but they are steps in the right direction.”


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