ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: New Theater Building a Good Choice for Everyone

For more than 35 years, the California Lutheran University theater department has been housed in the school’s old gym/basketball court. The building is sectioned off with partitions into individual offices and makeshift classrooms. After more than 35 years, it is time for an official theater building on the Cal Lutheran campus.


As you walk into the acting space of the current theater building, it is a large, open, rectangular room where the floor is the old basketball court. The old scoreboard is still visible hanging over the makeup lab. Classrooms are not separated by walls, but by thin partitions and curtains.


The issue is clear: the space is too small and was never meant to be a long-term theater building. It is in Cal Lutheran’s best interest to build a better, more impressive, building dedicated to the theater department on campus.


Cal Lutheran’s theater department has, for four years running, taken shows and actors to the prestigious annual American College Theater Festival. This festival showcases outstanding shows and actors from schools all around the nation and brings them together so students can learn from experts on what can be improved and learned from other schools’ interpretations of numerous shows.


The department has put on shows at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza every other spring for many years. Audiences continue to grow and the department continues to become better recognized and respected. The campus needs a theater building that reflects the theater department’s achievements. This will increase the overall quality of campus, attracting donors and incoming students.


Senior John Marino was a transfer student at Cal Lutheran interested in performing theater and was disappointed by what he found on campus.


“There’s less of a draw to come here if you’re interested in theater, if you’re interested in performing. If I were to have taken a tour here before I came, I probably wouldn’t have come because there’s not a theater here,” Marino said.


Cal Lutheran senior Sarah McKee, who is majoring in technical theater and has experience working as a departmental assistant in the scene shop and paint shop, elaborated on current issues with ability to build shows on campus.


“Currently, our building doesn’t have enough space for us to build large sets. We actually have to use our acting space to build sets in because our shop isn’t large enough. We don’t have enough space to paint. Just recently we had to paint outside and then the wind blew in and broke a whole bunch of our stuff,” McKee said.


The space is not the only issue, however.


“Our paint shop is like, 5 feet by 10 feet and has holes in it. When I paint during the winter it gets so cold that I have to stop and warm up my hands because I can’t feel them so I can’t paint anymore. There are literal holes that you can see through in the shop, in all the shops,” McKee said.


A new, improved building with, say, real walls would be beneficial to students in the theater department because it would give them an opportunity to gain experience in how professional shows are run. Actors would be able to get used to a bigger space with better acoustics and technical workers could gain experience on better lighting systems and larger, more elaborate sets.


These new and improved shows and facilities will bring Cal Lutheran to the next level of respect among other colleges in our area.


“I definitely think having a new theater building would be a huge draw for prospective students if we actually had facilities for them to train in and be able to go on to a more professional career knowing what kinds of facilities they would be using,” senior Kevlyn Holmes said.


This could give Cal Lutheran the chance to boost its reputation in the arts, standing at the same level as some of the top theater programs in the area. There is an ability to bring in a greater number of established professors. This would give an even better education to the theater students hoping to graduate feeling prepared to pursue their acting or technical careers.


Now for the biggest question of all: what about money?


“For all of the arts, performing and visual arts, it’s about $125 million for a building. A performing arts structure by itself based on comparable buildings would be somewhere between $30 million and $60 million,” Cal Lutheran theater arts professor Michael Arndt said.


Granted, these figures were for a building with, as Arndt said, “all the bells and whistles.” That doesn’t mean Arndt has lost hope.


“Right now the emphasis is on the science building and money that’s being raised for a new science building. But, we’re always in hope. If someone walked in with $10 million, we’d probably have a building started,” Arndt said.


Cal Lutheran is on the road of upgrades. In the past four years we have built a new football stadium, installed new equipment in the fitness center, and built a dining commons, and improvements are constantly being planned for the future. A new theater building is our next project. Why? Because it’s Cal Lutheran’s time to shine in the college theater world.


Michelle Miller

Published December 10, 2014