Extreme Makeover: Theater edition

by Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier News Editor

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Alexis Johnson | CAMPUS CARRIER

Senior Haley Westphal works in the new shop.

After serving student actors, designers and directors at Berry for almost 100 years, Blackstone Hall is getting a facelift. The current building has undergone major renovations and the new building will be completed in the fall.

“One of the things theater majors and minors look at when they are considering a program are the facilities,” associate theater professor Anna Filippo said. “If they are extremely outdated or just unsafe, it’s difficult to get good training.”

Updates to Blackstone include dust collector systems for cleaner air in the scene shop and an industrial exhaust hood for the dye shop to keep students safe while working with dyes. Several narrow staircases have also been widened and the restrooms in the lobby have been redone for hygienic purposes.

“We are excited the students are going to be working in a safer area,” associate theater professor Alice Bristow said.

Bristow runs the Berry College Theatre Company (BCTC) costume shop, which is now being housed in an annex across the parking lot from Blackstone Hall. Unlike its temporary home in the Moon Building, the shop now has room to house costume storage as well as Bristow’s office.

“This is great,” Bristow said about the annex. “If I have to come into my office while my crew is working, I’m right there with them.”

The scene building shop, which was temporarily housed in the telecommunications building, is now in a central location in Blackstone Hall. This saves designers and directors time traveling back and forth between the stage and the shop.

“We had to get on the phone if we needed to ask anyone anything,” Filippo said. “It’s easier to put on a production when everyone is together.”

In addition to the upgrades to Blackstone Hall, an entirely new performance space is being built next to the existing building. The E.H. Young Theatre, where performances have been held until now, will serve as a flexible space often used for rehearsals.

“The renovation thus far has been great,” assistant theater professor Seamus Bourne said. “We are still trying to unpack some of the miscellaneous stuff, and we have some tool benches and work shelves to build, but BCTC will be able to grow into the space. I hope that we will be able to use the renovated space to teach the students in a more effective and efficient manner than we used to.”

The new performance space will be much larger than the E.H. Young and will be much more versatile: the seating for performances can be rearranged in several different configurations to suit the needs of different shows and performance styles. This will prepare actors and set designers for different venues.

“We want to show it off and use it as a nice recruiting tool,” Filippo said. “I think students will be very impressed with that space.”

The new theater will open in the fall with a formal ribbon cutting, and will hold productions starting next semester.

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