Theatre Arts Department: New Black Box Theatre

Imagine a classroom with nothing but curtains and short dividers to block out the noise from other professors teaching next door. That is the reality that students taking classes in the Theatre Arts building have faced for the past eight years until now.

Over winter break California Lutheran University made renovations to the Theatre Arts building, giving two classrooms and the costume shop floor-to-ceiling insulated walls, new lighting, and electrical and digital hookups.

“We’ve always complained about not having walls,” said Michael Arndt, professor of theatre arts. “No other classroom on campus didn’t have walls so that was an issue.”

Kevin Repich and Mindi Carpenter rehearse a scene in the new Black Box Theatre. Photo by Mary Crocker - Staff Photographer
Kevin Repich and Mindi Carpenter rehearse a scene in the new Black Box Theatre.
Photo by Mary Crocker – Staff Photographer

The Theatre Arts building, which used to be the university basketball gym, had some growing pains when it was transformed into what is now the Theatre Arts building. The biggest problem with the absence of walls for the classrooms was the noise that would so easily transfer throughout the building and distract both students and professors.

“Two people couldn’t be rehearsing at the same time because there’s no walls,” said senior theatre arts and communication major Kevin Repich. “So sound would bleed through everywhere.”

Arndt said that although the theatre department worked around the issue by arranging classes so they didn’t overlap, the noise was still an inconvenience.

“It really was quite disruptive at certain times of the day,” Arndt said.

Capital Project Manager Tony Adragna said the goal of the renovations was to fix the problem by separating classrooms with walls, thus eliminating noise.

“We double dry-walled everything with acoustical drywalls,” Adragna said.

Adragna said the entire project costs $309,000 which came out of the year-end funds.

Josh Clabaugh, technical director for the Theatre Arts Department, said that they removed all of the temporary office walls and drapery that was above them, which divided the classrooms, in order to install floor-to-ceiling hard-insulated walls.

New mirrors were also added to one of the classrooms called “the acting space.”

“Now instead of our temporary rolling mirrors we have a permanent wall of mirrors,” Clabaugh said.

“The acting space” can also now double as a second dance studio as well as another performance space for smaller performances, Clabaugh said.

With the new insulated walls, each room can now be used simultaneously to host rehearsals and classes without interruption. This not only makes the scheduling of classes and rehearsals easier on the department but also helps utilize everyone’s time more efficiently.

“Last night we had a que-to-que tech rehearsal in the black box, while there was also a rehearsal happening in the acting space, while people were also studying in the design lab,” Repich said. “All three of those things were able to happen simultaneously and that really hasn’t been an option before.”

Clabaugh is already starting to see a positive change in the attitudes of those in the Theatre Arts Department, thanks to the new renovations.

“It’s been really great. I think it has brought up the morale of the department,” Clabaugh said.

Arndt also expressed his gratitude for the changes that were made. He said since he began teaching at the university 35 years ago, the facilities for the Theatre Arts Department have continued to improve.

“We’re very grateful. It means a lot to our program to have the upgrade,” Arndt said.

Amanda Souza
Staff Writer