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Citystep Criticizes Lack Of Performance Space

By Lan N. Nguyen

As organizers of Citystep prepare to stage their annual dance production next week in Sanders Theater, leaders of the student group are complaining that the performance space is inadequate and pressing to find a permanent location for the show.

"Because we work with over 150 performers, safety is our first concern," said Allison H. Mnookin '92, Citystep's executive producer. "Sanders Theater as a space poses several problems. The stage is small and slippery and the access is narrow and dangerous."

Mnookin described Sanders as a "recital place rather than a performance space," saying that the auditorium lacks many of the amenities of a professional theater, including sound and lighting systems and a backstage.

Citystep, an undergraduate program which teaches dance to children in city schools, has been severely handicapped by these drawbacks, Mnookin said.

"The goal of Citystep is to expose kids to theperforming arts," said Mnookin. "That means beingpart of all aspects of a professional production."

The lack of a permanent home for the show hasbeen a perennial problem for Citystep, which twoyears ago staged the production on the LoebMainstage after petitioning the studentHarvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) for one ofits four annual slots. At the time, Citystepofficials agreed not to request an HRDC slot atthe Loeb for at least five years, according to ZoeMulford '92, HRDC's coordinator of experimentaltheater.

At the same time, Citystep petitioned theUniversity's standing committee on dramatics fortheir own time slot at the Loeb, which would notconflict with HRDC. Committee members said thatrequest was turned down because of a lack of spacein the theater, which is also home to theprofessional American Repertory Theater (ART).

"The Loeb just has so much space--that's whatthe difficulty is," said Lowell Professor of theHumanities William Alfred, who chairs thecommittee. "The difficulty is we don't want to doundergraduates out of their time. If theUniversity paid for a portion of space time, thenCitystep could be put in without limitingundergraduate time."

"HRDC was understandably unwilling to give uptime, and ART is unable to give up slots," saidART Artistic Director Robert Brustein, who managesthe Loeb. "ART has to earn a certain income. Evena few missed performances would put it in thedeficits. And we're not allowed to do that."

Brustein said the negotiations for an extraslot for Citystep amounted to a conflict between"needs that can't be reconciled."

Under a compromise plan worked out this summerby Citystep, the ART and Dean of Students ArchieC. Epps III, the site of the performance wouldalternate between Cambridge Rindge and LatinSchool, the where last year's show was put on, anda space "at Harvard," Citystep officials said.

"Citystep's understanding was that if wesolidified the alternate year plan with theCambridge public schools, Harvard would provideperformance space on the alternative years,"Mnookin said.

But Mireya Nadal-Vicens '91, executive producerof Citystep, said that the group had interpreted"at Harvard" to mean at the Loeb, and thatorganizers were dismayed when University officialsrejected their request for the mainstage thisspring.

"We were hurt by [the decision]," Nadal-Vicenssaid. "It is dangerous for our program not to havea permanent space."

But HRDC officials said that while they supportCitystep's goals, they were leery of a plan toestablish a permanent space for the group at theLoab for fear of losing their own time slots.

"The immediate difficulty was who was going togive up when," said Nestor M. Davidson '90,president of HRDC at the time of the decision anda non-voting member of the standing committee. "Itpitted students against students. HRDC was forcedinto competition with Citystep for time."

HRDC President Mary Elizabeth Rieffel '91 saidthat while HRDC "feels that Citystep is animportant and valuable activity which deservesspace, the issue was whether HRDC could afford togive up one of its time slots and we decided wecannot.

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