Construction on the Black Box Theater is delayed due to recent vandalism and because initial designs for the theater failed to include a fire containment system, according to Jonathan Tazewell, Thomas S. Turgeon professor of drama. The new theater, which was initially slated to open in September, will likely open for student use next semester.
Last weekend, a vandal broke through one of the Black Box’s temporary doors, urinated on an uninstalled electrical panel, removed construction plans from the building and climbed into the rafters of the incomplete building, damaging ducts for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, according to Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper.
The design for the new Black Box includes features lacking in the old space, like a garage-style loading door in the back for scenery and furniture, curtain corridors that will allow actors to make entrances from four different points, a backstage area, a green room, two restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, moveable seating to allow for various styles of staging and an improved lighting grid 14 feet above the stage, according to Tazewell.
The old Black Box Theater, a renovated bank building constructed in 1905, was only wheelchair accessible through the back of the building. The old theater, demolished this summer, also lacked a public bathroom for use during performances, since the only restroom was behind the stage. The Horn Gallery and Weaver Cottage are the only readily available spaces this semester for student theater productions unaffiliated with the Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Club, according to drama major Laurel Waller ’19.
The performance area of the old Black Box was 750 square feet, according to the Kenyon website, while the planned performance space in the new Black Box will be approximately 900 square feet. The new theater will hold up to 99 seats, according to Tazewell.
Mollie Greenberg ’19 is excited about these new features, although the old Black Box held sentimental value for her: Watching a rehearsal of first-year theater troupe Renegade Theater in that space influenced her decision to attend Kenyon. Last spring, Greenberg starred in Renegade’s production of No Exit, one of the last productions in the old Black Box.
“I think it’s sad that old things have to be torn down,” Greenberg said. “I wish that the Black Box could still be here and even serve a different purpose, but I think it’s really exciting that we’re getting this new one.”
Tazewell hopes that the theater becomes part of the “village feel” of the North Campus Apartments. The design of the incomplete Black Box echoes the austere gray architecture of the nearby Craft Center.
“I think people are going to be really excited about it once they get to get inside and see how much more functional it is than the space we had before,” Tazewell said.