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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Moravian’s Last Curtain Call: What the Loss of the Arena Theatre Means to a Current Theatre Student

From left to right, Zach Santana, Colin Core, Ava Ferentinos, Josiah Dalpezzo, Emma Ward, Santoshi Mutyala, Emma Fastiggi, Lindsay Saykay, Matthew Mazzetti, & Hannah Kolonoski. Photo courtesy of Lexi Jordan.
From left to right, Zach Santana, Colin Core, Ava Ferentinos, Josiah Dalpezzo, Emma Ward, Santoshi Mutyala, Emma Fastiggi, Lindsay Saykay, Matthew Mazzetti, & Hannah Kolonoski. Photo courtesy of Lexi Jordan.

I remember freshman year when Dominic Trabosci ‘22 asked me for my opinion for The Comenian. I was hesitant; I did not like the idea of my opinion on anything being out in the open. Now, with this, if I don’t say something, no one will bring any attention to it, so I am deciding to write and speak up.

As a proud member of the Moravian University Theatre Company, acting as co-marketing manager and even having declared a theatre minor, I really appreciate the theatre community we built here. During my time at Moravian, I could always count on going to rehearsal in the Arena Theatre and seeing my wonderful castmates and crewmates and being able to find some form of escapism from the world and enjoy the love of the art of performing with the rest of the company. While the last few years the club has been small, it has been showing a lot of promise with an abundance of new members, not to mention practically sold-out showings of this semester’s performances of Bad Auditions by Bad Actors and The Mad Ones.

Despite this, the company’s growth and impact on the Moravian community is taking a hit. For those who are unaware, Moravian University will be conducting a massive renovation of the Haupert Union Building (HUB), demolishing the Arena Theatre, and all its history, to make way for a relocated health and counseling center.

Granted, it wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t know since the University has no mention of the removal on their renovation website and after talking to many alumni from recent years or from the coffee & connections event, all of them were surprised to learn this and were equally outraged. Personally, I’d be intrigued by what the donors knew about when asked to donate towards the renovation. I wonder if these intentions were made more prevalent, possibly it would have deterred some away or even more backlash. Transparency would be appreciated and should have been more apparent during the course of these events.

While any good PR statement would say this doesn’t mean the end of theatre at Moravian, as a member, I can’t help but feel differently. Consequently, losing a dedicated space for productions is a major loss for the program and puts its future in jeopardy.

Sure, you can technically put on a play anywhere. But, there are a lot of amenities a location needs, including curtains, a tech booth, a dressing room, etc. Turning a room into a temporary theatre space, as the University has proposed, is going to be inconvenient not only for the company’s end, but also for whomever else is trying to use that room.

Popular ideas on where they should relocate the theatre, such as Foy Concert Hall, would be entirely impractical as it would not be fair to the countless music ensembles and classes that use the space. Having to strike our set and equipment every day would make us lose valuable rehearsal time. Then, the question becomes, where would we even put everything? These problems come up with many other temporary solutions.

Not only is the removal a loss for the company, but the University as a whole. Theatre is a medium to convey stories about the world and bring attention to issues, giving us insights other than our own. People can come, watch a show, and find entertainment along with a message of some kind. Shows can deliver lighthearted comedy and really allow people to just enjoy a night out. Back when Moravian did InFocus, the shows reflected the theme, which really tied everything together.

Having the theatre in the central building on campus also ensures accessibility for all to be able to see a show. Even non-Moravian companies would perform shows here, as The Colorism Project, which was performed last year, demonstrates.

It was a show with an important message and you did not need to leave campus to see it. Without a theater, these outside opportunities would not be available to the student body.

Not having a dedicated space makes it so that theatre is homeless, in a sense. As if it does not belong. Ultimately, this will lead to confusion on where shows would be or if the University even has a theatre club. Attempting to learn in a theatre class setting without a stage would be possible, but it excludes a central element, which makes a lot of it questionable.

It is understandable that Moravian is a business and needs to do what makes the most financial sense, but I’ve got to say, it might have just lost a customer. It is disheartening to accept that the University is dropping a whole department and major activity. I can’t help but feel cheated that if I went to any other institution, I wouldn’t have to worry about matters like this. Obviously, I’m not going to transfer over something like this, but along with a lot of little things, I don’t think I can recommend this place going forward. (Please don’t expel me or take away my financial aid!) To me, theatre is about people; it is about the actors and audience connecting bonds and sharing stories that offer some a new perspective, while providing an escape from reality. As long as the company is around, there will be theatre on campus. No matter where that might be, you can bet that this will not be the end. This setback is about to be followed by a major comeback.

Please support the arts on campus. There is this petition on going around which would be great if you would sign it to preserve theatre on campus. Go see the upcoming collection of one-act plays on March 22nd and the Hound Show Cabaret on April 19th-20th. Anyone is welcome to audition, we would love to have you. Farewell Arena Theatre, thank you for allowing me to meet lifelong friends, and allowing me to perform and share the wonder with other people.

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