Where others see a bell tower, Austin S. Guest '03-'05 sees the perfect site for avant-garde theater.
In early December, audiences will climb the 88 steps of the Lowell House bell tower to a spacious, high-ceilinged white room, where Guest intends to prove that good theater can occur in the strangest of places.
"The set is just this," Guest says, pointing to the piano pushed off to the side and the single support column in the middle of the room. Here, he will work with a cast of nine students to develop an original production inspired by absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett.
"[The space] forces you to ask some really creative questions," he says.
These questions may become increasingly relevant this semester as the theater community faces an impending space crunch, coupled with new artistic leadership and the creation of a student group that focuses on expanding the use of available venues.
In recent years, most Harvard theater has been performed in the Loeb Drama Center, a Harvard-owned space that the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) shares with a professional acting troupe called the American Repertory Theatre (ART).
But many in the theater community say that other spaces in Houses-whether or not they were originally intended for shows-have gone underutilized.
At the same time, a recent review of Harvard's accounting procedures for student shows has unexpectedly resulted in the reemergence of the Harvard Theater Advisory Group (HTAG), a student group that disappeared from the theater scene in recent years.
HTAG now has jurisdiction over the budgets of student theater productions not performed in the Loeb-like Guest's show, for instance. Members of the new group say they hope their existence will make it easier for students to put on shows in such spaces.
These factors-limited space, push from theater leaders for increased creativity and the creation of HTAG-could bring new styles of theater to campus and force students to reconsider the way Harvard theater is structured.
Hierarchy of Spaces
Currently, the Loeb's two stages-the Mainstage and the Experimental Theater -are considered the campus' most desirable spots for their technical capacity, the support HRDC gives producers and the ability to attract large audiences.
But Harvard faces an impending performing arts space crunch with the loss of Radcliffe's Agassiz Theater in 2006 and the uncertain future of the dilapidated Hasty Pudding building, which has been awaiting renovation by the College since it purchased the space in 2000.
While this lack of space has been a long-time problem for Harvard actors, some are now saying it could force them to be more imaginative.
"There isn't really a space crunch," Guest says. "There's a lot of space if you broaden your definition of what you mean by space."
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