With its infamous slanting floors, widening cracked walls and increasing risk of collapse due to earthquakes, Carpenter Hall has long suffered the brunt of campus jokes.
Talk of the coming demolition of Carpenter became a favorite topic as students rejoice at the thought of no longer taking classes in a building that might crumble beneath them.
While its demolition has yet to begin, this past December saw the destruction of the beloved Drama Building, which suffered from even greater foundational problems.
Despite Carpenter’s rapid deterioration, the building opened its doors to the homeless Drama Department for the spring semester as the department awaits the construction of its new rehearsal space.
Opinions on this dramatic shift vary across the department: some find the change to a less isolated location exciting, while others lament the lack of privacy as they rehearse fragile scenes in a room anyone can enter.
“I do not like it,” senior Stephen Thie said. “It is not sound-proof and you don’t get to feel like you have any privacy.”
Another senior drama student, Simon Lemaire, described the difficult balance between getting in productive rehearsals and being good neighbors.
“It’s a case where life imitates art because we are constantly dealing with a conflict between two goods,” Lemaire said. “We have people coming to our doors saying, ‘Hey, you’re being too loud.’ And we have to look at them in turn and say, ‘Sorry, we have to be loud.’ … If we are respectful, then we’ll probably only rehearse mediocre theater for people to go watch.”
Thie and Lemaire have been working on drama major Ali Sentmanat’s senior studio, “The Bear” by Anton Chekhov. Early on in the rehearsal process, Lemaire and his co-star Hannah Korman were reading through an intense fight scene at full volume.
Their heated remarks and intense sound led a concerned woman to come rushing into the room to see if everything was all right.
“It must have been the funniest thing to watch because she walks in the door expecting to see a fight, and instead sees six people around a table with pencils in hand and books, all studiously looking at the table and looking up at her like, ‘Yes? Is something wrong?’ ” Lemaire said.
“We laughed about it, but it’s just kind of disruptive,” Thie said. “We were finally digging into the text and all of a sudden it just derailed us [and] took us a while to get back on.”
Though many students are averse to the new location, professors of the department seem to be enjoying the change.
“Our favorite thing about rehearsing in [Carpenter] 240 is the natural rake in the rehearsal hall,” Professor Stefan Novinski, director of this semester’s mainstage production of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” said. “But honestly, I like being in the nerve center of the university. And it’s great to see more of my colleagues on a day-to-day basis.”
Novinski also added his excitement that After Hours will be performed in Carpenter 240 for this semester.
“It means that there’s a whole late- night life brought to a building that’s probably not used to having that wonderful frivolity in it,” Novinski said.
Though they seem to be taking it in stride, the cast of “Measure for Measure” has already moved rehearsal into the Margaret Jonsson Theater, a move that usually happens much later in the semester.
Senior Studios and After Hours productions continue to rehearse in Carpenter 240 and, despite the smaller size and occasional interruption, they seem to be doing just fine.
“We can do anything for a semester, it seems to me. I’m grateful to everyone, especially Stefan who has been so flexible about everything,” department chair Kyle Lemieux said. “The morale seems to be high in terms of just getting our shows up and doing what we need to do.”