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David CourtLearning specialist David Court believes a recent upgrade to Essex Hall Theatre will enhance opportunities for drama students.

Behind-the-scenes project to improve drama student experience

Infrastructure upgrades to Essex Hall Theatre may not be visible to patrons of the University Players, but will improve learning opportunities for drama students, says professor David Court.

“We’re creating an environment that reflects what our graduates will find in the professional world,” he says. “This project has been three years in the making. I am very proud to see it coming together.”

Funded mainly by the provost’s office and the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the investment made major changes to several systems: lighting, electrical, audio-visual and communications, as well as a new stage floor.

“This whole process started with health and safety concerns,” says Court. “Our student experience has been limited by what we could do safely.”

He cites the example of the stage lighting. Because the lines were accessible only on very tall ladders, the work had to be done by outside companies with liability insurance. The project replaced the fixed rigging with a motorized system that lowers lights to floor level, allowing students to hang them.

“Something that took us a week to do in labs, we did in a couple of hours,” Court says. “Now our students are getting the hands-on learning we couldn’t provide before.”

New A/V conduits under the theatre seating connect the projection booth behind the audience to the stage area, providing plug-and-play functionality for speakers and audio equipment.

“Before, we had to run cables for every show,” says Court. “Our new system gives us a flexibility for greater creativity in the staging of our shows.”

He points out that professional productions are increasingly making use of video elements during performances and hopes to introduce more of this technology into Essex Hall.

“This project doesn’t involve any huge innovations, but it does put in place all the bones we need to build on,” he says. “Hopefully providing our students with a space that’s up-to-date will be a recruiting tool.”

University Players will open its season with an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s gothic romance Jane Eyre, September 22 through October 1 in the Essex Hall Theatre. Find ticket info and showtimes at www.UniversityPlayers.com or call the box office at 519-253-3000, ext. 2808.