Aven Hall Renovations Change Theatre Plans for the Fall Semester / Gracie Lee
The room known as Aven Little Theater to MC undergrads has undergone a makeover since students left for summer break. Organization of the backstage area began at the end of April, and renovations started the weekend after spring graduation. Workers must still install the classroom’s new tech, but will be completely finished with the modifications by the start of classes.
The structure of the room, which once hosted play performances and presentations, has remained almost identical, with mainly cosmetic modifications. “Not a lot you can do with rooms on this floor of the building, because we’re on the bottom floor and it’s not like you can move walls around and not affect the whole building,” Dr. Reid Vance, assistant professor and chair of the Communication Department, said. “You work with the space you’ve got.”
Although construction removed the stage, a small platform and podium remained. The new layout allows communication professors to deliver their lectures to larger classes. In the fall, Vance will teach 35 members in the Fundamentals of Digital Communication class in the new room. This would not have been possible with the old layout. “When we have to have a large gathering or special event, the room as it was, was not welcoming at all. It looked like a black hole,” he said.
Renovations also included a wheelchair accessible ramp and a teachers’ lounge. Although it will no longer serve as a theater, its remodeling will help it serve a better purpose. “Number one, we needed a large space to do larger gatherings and classes. We have our Christmas party, for example,” Vance said. “The space was always the same size, but it was underused. We’re still going to do theatre productions–we’re just not going to do them in there.”
Theatre will not be without a stage, however. Dr. Phyllis Seawright, assistant professor of communication, teaches all the theatre classes at MC. She plans to hold performances outside in the future. “We want our theatre department to be visible, and we can’t have it visible in the room it was in. And the more it’s visible, the more people want to participate,” Vance said. Due to the uncertainty of weather and the high demand for Swor Auditorium, Seawright hopes to hold productions on East Campus after future renovations. “We can still use it as a theater for small things, but we never want to go back in there for major productions,” she said. “It’s going to be great to have better lighting. We never had heat before. Air conditioning will be very nice. The acoustics should be so much better now than they ever have been.”
Seawright is directing the radio play of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in the fall. This story is based on the self-published book “The Greatest Gift” written by Philip Van Doren Stern. The show is less than an hour and a half long, and will feature live sound effects, called Foley.
“We want to make it look as much like live radio as possible. I love radio. I love radio plays. In the spring, everybody came to the show and was able to come and enjoy being outside in each other’s company,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to again: doing a live show–seeing everyone face to face.”
She is excited for audiences to experience the message of the story. “The show is truly about celebrating life, enjoying the gifts that God has given us,” she said. Although Seawright has not set audition or performance dates yet, she hopes to perform four or five shows in the Jean W. Pittman Hall on the second floor of Aven Hall. “We’re just going to have to remember to go home [after] and go to sleep,” she laughed.