A look into the StFX infrastructure
The Mulroney Hall is the newest in a string of construction and renovations across campus. The university’s president offered an announcement of a performance space in the new hall, a “classroom, performance, and presentation space” according to the university’s Twitter page.
This follows suit in a trend of new buildings offering grand lecture halls, but a lack of actual performance space. A curious trend given how the school often advertises its small class sizes.
StFX is the host of Festival Antigonish, a wonderful and large series of plays that occur throughout the course of the summer. The shows are held principally in the Bauer theatre, with the children’s shows in Immaculata Hall. These are two excellent performance spaces and offer different unique traits to their audience. For those who have not been in the Bauer, it is an approximate 300˚ stage, so the actors are surrounded by their audience, which makes for more complicated stage blocking and a captivating theatre experience.
Immaculata Hall is your more standard stage layout, but it is only slightly elevated and does not have strong acoustics for performance. Seats are arranged on a flat surface with other seating elevated on the sides and at the very back.
A forgotten theatre space is the StFX Auditorium underneath the school chapel. The space is well laid out for bigger performances but has a negative reputation.
Rumours have circulated for years about issues with the foundation, possible mould and more; although, dance performances still occur there which begs the question of how much truth there is to the stories.
Upon visiting the auditorium, it is evident that the space is long overdue for some renovations. The peeling paint and worn floors offer a comforting sense of age and good use but deliver a sense of urgency for renewal.
In a town that is overflowing with talent, and thrives off its theatre community, it would make sense for the community to keep up to date on its infrastructure. To do this, Theatre Antigonish often hosts fundraisers, such as cabaret events, to maintain upkeep and to buy the rights to put on further productions.
The question some individuals have regarding fundraising is how much of the funds can go directly to the Theatre community rather than the university itself.
The 2019-2020 budget has just been approved with a renovation budget allocated to the locker rooms in the Oland Centre. It is highlighted that the six million dollars were fundraised, but with no mention of how or why the budget approval was necessary if it was by donation. If fundraised funds can go directly to a building, then I promote the beginning of a fundraiser for the renovations of the arts buildings on campus.
Were renovations for the Oland Centre not voted upon as an addition to the student fees charged to students? This would suggest that funds raised were not by donations or events.
Our town hosts bi-weekly art fairs, open-mic nights, poetry events, lecture series, music performances and more. It only makes sense to have more spaces to promote and encourage this culture as it is clearly prominent and successful. Looking at recent events, Hairspray and The Shoe Project were both events that were sold out during their performance runs.
The upcoming Sunshine on Leith is already said to have strong ticket sales well before opening night. These are clear signs that the theatre community is vibrant and strong. This is also something the university can use to promote its arts programs and benefit its current struggling reputation.
The continued creation of spaces for larger class sizes and grand lectures in the new building is fine but given the nature of our community and the already pre-existing spaces that can accommodate those types of events, it would make sense to create spaces that can still be used for those purposes but that can incorporate the community on a larger scale.
StFX already has very strong ties to the community, but by offering resources that they desire, it can help boost those connections and promote future student enrolment to StFX. I call to action the student population and community; how do you think StFX or the community should approach the subject of performance spaces on campus or within the community?