Students and faculty discuss performing arts

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March 22, 2001

Georgetown students, faculty and alumni met in Bulldog Alley Tuesday to discuss the future of performing arts at Georgetown.

The discussion centered around the developing arts program, in particular the $20 million performing arts center, currently in the building process. The meeting was led by Jos? Bowen, assistant professor of music, Ronald Lignelli, Director of the Office of Performing Arts, and Theodore Parker, Technical Adviser of the Office of Performing Arts.

According to Bowen, once the center is completed, it will feature one of the largest stages in the D.C. area, multiple rehearsal rooms and recording studios.

“This is one awesome, $20 million building,” Bowen said. The theater complex will also become the home of the developing theater department, and new faculty will be hired to specialize in this area.

Lignelli said that the rise in theater curriculum will lead to degree programs in theater, as well as department produced performances. “This will be the place everyone wants to work,” Lignelli said.

Due to the anticipated demand for stage time in the arts center, Lignelli and Bowen said they want to form a single programming board comprised of faculty and students. The board would determine the times certain organizations could have access to the facilities.

While the structure of this board is undecided, its intent will be to oversee the access to the facilities. “I don’t have (the board) worked out yet,” Lignelli said. “I just need a system that ensures equity.”

Bowen separated the groups that would vie for stage time into three categories: organizations with a University-paid director, such as the orchestra, independent groups, such as a capella groups and theater groups.

Lignelli and Bowen suggested that a unified box office and a paid publicity worker would enable the greater Georgetown community to buy tickets and increase attendance at student performances.

“There is a whole audience out there that needs to be cultivated,” said Bowen.

The prospect of operating under a single controlling body raised concern among students that the autonomy of Georgetown’s traditionally independent arts groups could be jeopardized.

“I love Georgetown theater because each person can come in, regardless of experience, and do anything?there is no hierarchical system,” said Jason Yarn (CAS ‘01), the executive producer of Mask and Bauble.

“Under the purview of any board, or in association with an official department, that tradition may be challenged,” Yarn said.

Another concern expressed by students was the potential of censorship from the board of the more “cutting edge” productions. Lignelli and Bowen said that the regulation of student creativity will not be a problem.

“If the board were to intervene on any issue it would be for safety issues, not censorship,” Lignelli said.

The greatest concern of students was the University’s lack of places to practice and perform their art. Representatives of dance clubs, vocal groups, rock bands and photographers all expressed their troubles in finding areas to exercise their talents.

Peiting Li (SFS ‘04), came to show her concern over the scarcity of opportunities for student photography.

“There are no open dark rooms,” Li said. “At other schools there are dark rooms in every dorm.”

Even with the completion of the new performing arts center, Georgetown will be lacking in spaces accommodated for the exercise of students’ artistic talent, especially in music.

Bowen said he recently submitted a proposal to the University to transform current spaces on campus into facilities for the performing arts in a $15 million renovation project, including up to 40 practice rooms, recording studios and recreational facilities equipped with state of the art technology.

“It’s enough space to give everyone what they want”, Bowen said.

Bowen said he was enthusiastic about his proposal, though he said he was discontent with the current situation. Bowen said that despite the University’s efforts to expand the arts at Georgetown, it is almost impossible for him to teach music with his current resources.

“I have two faculty members and the same old pitiful Xerox machine in the corner,” Bowen said. Bowen said that the effects of his proposal will reach many Georgetown students, though he said there will be few options if his plan is not approved.

Bowen said he wants to see improvement in the near future.

“I won’t accept ‘maybe’ for five years” Bowen said. “If I can’t get [better music facilities], I will simply go. I can’t do my job.”

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