Theater opens opportunities for campus events
Jan. 22, 2013
Whether it's screening a classic movie, staging a live play, hosting a musical concert or even offering a big-screen rendition of national sporting event, the new IUPUI Campus Center Theater has been a growing success story.
“It’s a huge asset for us,” said Campus Center Director Joe Hayes, who, like the theater, is in his first year at IUPUI. “It provides a unique space that we haven’t had before, with all the audio-visual niceties that make programs a more special experience, whether it’s film, dance, plays or music -- it’s very versatile.”
Best of all, it’s giving Hayes and his staff another anchor for the lower level of the Campus Center, which he said is quickly becoming “student central” for the campus community.
“The theater is in a great place,” Hayes added. “It’s close to the TV room and the game room, places where students spend a lot of time between or after classes. That whole level is becoming a hub for students.”
Plenty of possibilities
Michael Sprinkle, the assistant director of events and conference services on Hayes’ staff, is excited about the possibilities the theater offers the Campus Center, student groups and the entire campus community.
“It’s becoming what we thought it would become,” Sprinkle said. “We hosted 129 events there during the fall semester. It has taken off even quicker than we thought it might; the word has been getting around.”
The key is the theater’s flexibility.
“We run the gamut of events there,” Sprinkle said. “The Student Activities Programming Board is using it for its film series; it’s a great venue to watch movies. But we’ve hosted groundbreaking ceremonies, quite a few speakers, and we’ve even got a student group that holds a church service on Sundays.”
Sprinkle and Hayes both look at the theater as another asset to help IUPUI serve a broad range of constituencies, including social, academic, cultural and other groups. “We try to work closely with all our clients to see which of our facilities will best serve their needs,” Sprinkle said.
Hayes says the intimacy of the theater gives event planners options.
“I believe that (Room) 450 is a great space, but some events can get a little lost in that large a room,” he said. In contrast, the theater has 245 fixed seats, with an additional eight seats set aside for wheelchair accessibility.
The flexibility the theater offers has caught the attention of the Office of University Ceremonies. “The ceremonies office has used us for several events and seem to be happy with what we’ve been able to provide,” Hayes said.
Technology plays a big part in the site’s success. The theater’s capacity to broadcast events across the state and around the world also played a part in the success of October's “Auksalaq,” a telematic opera linking musicians at IUPUI, in Washington, D.C., Alaska and Virginia, and internationally in Norway and Canada.
Looking forward, Hayes sees the theater becoming a go-to spot for televised events, concerts, live performances, plays and speakers. “We hosted IUPUI’s nationally televised game against the University of Michigan in November, and people seemed to really enjoy that,” the director said. “We can do those along with other special events. It’s a great way to bring people together.”
The theater made a dazzling debut in April when it hosted “The History of Cardenio,” written by William Shakespeare and a contemporary, John Fletcher. The performance was the first complete theatrical production of a “lost” Shakespeare play and was directed by Terri Bourus, an associate professor of English drama in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Gary Taylor, the joint general editor of the New Oxford Shakespeare and the George Matthew Edgar Professor of English of Florida State University, re-created the play.
Sprinkle believes the Campus Center Theater may become a part of the renowned Heartland Film Festival.
“We had some people from the Heartland come in to see the theater, and they were amazed at the sound quality,” the assistant director said. “They said our theater is on a par with the theaters who host events in their festival.”
According to Sprinkle, Campus Center leaders have already made tweaks to the theater to enhance the events it hosts. “We knew pretty quickly that we needed to improve the (stage) lighting, so we added a new light board,” he said. The facility now has new acoustical panels that make an already good sound system even more impressive.
“Like everything, you find what’s working and what’s not working,” Sprinkle said. “You have to learn as you go.”
As far as Sprinkle is concerned, it’s important for the Campus Center staff to listen to feedback from their clients. “We will learn a lot from trial and error, but the clients are the ones who know their events best. They’ll tell us what we need to do.”