Theatre department transitioning from Pearson to Carver

“Three Days of Rain” comes to 2140 Pearson Hall this Thursday through Sunday. (Left to right: Nan, Pip, Walker)

The Iowa State University Theatre Department is finally beginning to settle into their new home on the third floor of Carver Hall. However, it was a long and tedious journey from the department’s former home in Pearson Hall.

The department has been transitioning from Pearson to Carver for almost an entire year now.

The move was set into motion due to the anthropology department converging with the world languages and cultures department. Their move from Curtiss Hall sparked five other departmental moves across campus according to theatre director Jane Cox.

Luckily for the theatre department, Carver Hall had the perfect amount of space for them on the third floor. Other departments have been relocated to either Carver or Ross Hall to have enough room for everyone to work and study.

The theatre department had been in Pearson Hall ever since the building was erected in 1962. The building is named after Iowa State’s seventh president Raymond A. Pearson.

Aside from the theatre department, Pearson Hall has also housed computer science classes, IT services, graduate department offices, psychology classes, grants hub, sponsored programs’ offices and the department of world languages and cultures.

The move is said to be one that will benefit the entire theatre department when it is complete. However, it has been a bit difficult for staff and students that are attempting to adjust to their new space. Most of the trouble came from the construction.

Cox detailed some of the issues, which involved removing asbestos, cutting drywall and knocking down walls.

“And since theatre was there and our big classroom was there, where we have rehearsals and where we have classes, it was really difficult,” Cox said.

Noise and dust were the most obvious examples.

“There was dust everywhere, it was drywall dust everywhere, which doesn’t brush off,” Cox said. “There was loud noises during classes. There was sawing, electrical tools being used and sledgehammers being used… and I think that was probably one of the toughest parts.”

Liese VanderBroek, the theatre department’s secretary, agreed that the construction was the most challenging obstacle to get over before the department could move into Carver.

“When we were in Pearson, there was lots of dust and lots of noise,” VanderBroek began. “I don’t miss that very much.”  

The dust has caused many problems for staff and students. According to Cox, some people have been having asthma attacks and other breathing issues and even nosebleeds due to the large amount of dust in the air.   

However, room 2140, which is the current black box theatre in Pearson Hall, is still in full use. It can become frustrating at times for students and staff members who are trying to have class or rehearsals at the same time that the construction workers are trying to do their job.

“I think everyone has been frustrated, student and staff members alike,” Cox said.

However, Cox doesn’t blame the construction workers.

“I can’t say this area is to blame… the workmen would say the suppliers didn’t get things in on time, and that may be true,” Cox said.

Cox and VanderBroek agreed that the workers were very easy to talk to and communicate when it would be best for them to work without disturbing classes. The workers complied and helped to make the transition smoother for the department.

Construction is ongoing in both halls. The construction in Carver began in December of 2016 to make way for the new and improved theatre department.

According to the project summary, the “remodeled spaces will include offices, conference room, work room, a theatre black box and a teaching lab.” The renovation budget is currently set for $585,000 and construction should also be completed by May 30 of this year.

VanderBroek is very satisfied with how well Carver Hall is currently looking.

“Being over here in Carver is a big improvement… it pretty much hasn’t been noisy most of the time we have been over here,” VanderBroek said. She also noted that the dust hasn’t been nearly as bad as it is in Pearson.

Pearson’s second floor is currently under construction for classroom improvements. The construction, which began in September of 2016, is set to upgrade current classroom technology, finishes and furniture systems to “adapt to the current pedagogical methods to facilitate a more active learning environment.” Construction is said to be completed by June 30 of this year.

Another project remodeling most of the previous theatre department’s rooms began in May of 2016, including for room 2140.

This room has been the epicenter of the theatre department. To many students, it has been where they would rehearse for shows that would later be performed at Fisher Theater, a classroom for theatre class and a sanctuary to get away from the stress of school.

Another difficulty that Cox discussed about the move was the inability to move into the new space until they were authorized to do so. Project completion dates were pushed back several times, an annoyance to those who worked in the department for the entire day.

The department was finally able to make the transition to their new offices and set up their computer lab during spring break. According to VanderBroek, this was difficult to complete.

“I’m not sure why it had to be then. I mean, it would have been better for everyone if it had waited until the end of the school year,” VanderBroek said.

It was short notice for staff members and students.

“We didn’t know when we were gonna move, and then all of a sudden we were going to move and we were in rehearsal for two different plays at the time and were about to open one,” Cox said. “It was a very difficult time.”

It was also a difficult time for students. Adam Kroksh, senior in performing arts, shared his thoughts on the matter.

“It was a bit frustrating,” Kroksh said. “Last spring was supposed to be the final semester there [in Pearson], but everything got delayed… they kept saying they would move and then they didn’t.”

Kroksh also stated that he felt frustrated that the construction had made the area dusty, dark and unappealing.

Kroksh is part of Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival the improvisational group that would rehearse in room 2140. He noted that he will miss the space, but it will be less bittersweet for him since he is graduating this spring.

“I’m kind of fortunate that I’m leaving so that newer students can take over Carver and make it their own spot,” Kroksh said.

Another senior in performing arts, Amanda Keesling, also felt that it was difficult at times. She spent most of her time in the theatre’s design lab that is on the ground floor of Pearson, but she has had classes and rehearsals in room 2140 that have been frustrating for her.

“It’s kind of difficult to not have the spaces as available as they were before,” Keesling said.

Keesling said noise has been distracting during classes and hasn’t helped with her health. She has had a cold for much of this semester and the dust has made it hard for her to focus during her classes in room 2140.

Vivian Cook, senior in performing arts, said that she wasn’t extremely affected by the move.

“It’s been weird this semester… Pearson Hall is just a bit of a wreck,” Cook said.

Cook commented that she will be sad to see it go. She reminisced about her first show, Crimes of the Heart, and getting to know her classmates and co-actors around her.

“It’s just where we did everything and practiced for everything,” Cook said.  

Cox will certainly miss being in the building.

“That was kind of home for so long,” Cox said. “This [Carver Hall] will get to be home in time, but it’s like moving to a new house after you have been in the old one for a long, long time.”

The only negative thing that Cox mentioned about Carver was that it was simply a farther walk from her classes that she teaches and from where she parks her car. She said that she and others will get used to it over time.

“I counted the steps. It’s only 100 more from Pearson to here [Carver],” Cox laughed.