Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Performing arts groups struggle to rehearse after Wirtz Center pauses extracurricular practices

Madeline King/The Daily Northwestern
The Wirtz Center instituted a pause on extracurricular use of their space for Winter Quarter.

Northwestern performing arts students say they are struggling to find rehearsal spaces after the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts announced a pause on facility usage for extracurricular student groups during Winter Quarter. 

A memo sent to affected students on Dec. 22 said leadership from the Wirtz Center, the School of Communication and the theatre and dance programs decided to implement the pause due to “damage to furniture and equipment.”

Communication junior James Hisanaga serves as the producer for “Falsettos,” a student-produced musical set to begin in Week 5 of Winter Quarter. The production lost its rehearsal space in the Wirtz Center this quarter – a change that Hisanaga said was sudden and sent them “scrambling” to find new spaces.

“The way we were notified didn’t seem respectful of our time and energy that we put into the groups that we’re in,” Hisanaga said. 

Falsettos now rehearses in Fisk Hall and Kresge Hall, Hisanaga said. Music directors have to carry their own keyboards and instruments to rehearsals, and choreography rehearsals have become complicated without access to mirrors, they said. 

Communication sophomore and Falsettos cast member Lucy Lewis said she felt a lack of communication from the center and added she views the pause as a collective punishment. 

“Obviously, Wirtz is awesome, but I came here because of the incredible and vibrant student arts happening here, and it feels like Wirtz is just constantly undervaluing us,” Lewis said. 

Jorge Silva, managing director of the Wirtz Center, said $5,000 worth of damage to a TV and computer station was the “climactic loss” leading up to the pause. He said broken and missing tables, chairs and music stands along with the misplacement of equipment like pianos left classrooms nonfunctional over several months. 

Silva said since rehearsal spaces and classrooms are unlocked during the day, it is difficult to assign blame for the damage. Therefore, a holistic approach to the pause is more fair than individual accountability, he added. 

“No group has lost complete access,” Silva said. 

Silva also said he has offered and reached compromises with some of the extracurricular groups that contacted him. Wirtz Center has also reached out to groups with initially accepted space reservations, he added. 

Some previous commitments, such as rehearsals for the Dolphin Show and auditions for Northwestern’s Student Theatre Coalition, otherwise known as StuCo, will be honored despite the pause, according to Silva. 

“We appreciate that this is a disruption,” Silva said. “It’s difficult and stressful. We’re not discounting that by any means.”

Individuals involved in the decision hosted a working session on Friday as a way for students to give feedback to the Wirtz Center and work towards solutions, Silva said. Another will be hosted Monday. 

After the working sessions commenced, Silva said members of leadership would meet again to discuss how to proceed with space reservations and ensure property remains undamaged. 

Both Silva and Henry Godinez, the theatre department chair, said students should reach out with questions or concerns and take advantage of the communication avenues offered. 

Godinez said students should reflect on the damage and how it affects their learning environment. He said he hopes to see all parties who use space in the Wirtz Center work together to find solutions. 

“I do hope that students understand this is not a vindictive thing,” Godinez said. 

Lewis said she remains confident that the work of performing arts student groups on campus is important. 

However, Lewis said it is still “hurtful” to feel like their hard work isn’t truly valued by the larger community. 

“At a certain point, it feels like fighting a losing battle,” Lewis said. “It’s really tough, but we’re all still going to keep making theatre, whether we have Wirtz rooms or not.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @madelineking_18

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