Hermit Crabs Beware
Affordable space is the problem of just about every theatre community in the country, and many a blogger has posted about it at some time or another.
Don Hall, the Angry Guy in Chicago, today talks about how site-specific theatre will become ever more prevalent as the process of renting a theatre space for a couple of weeks becomes a financial hardship.
The New York Times ran a story a month ago about how a theatre group realized that they could sublet an apartment for a few months for less than it would cost to rent a 60 seat theatre for a couple of weeks.
But, simmering underneath the production space problem is always the question of rehearsal space.
In Boston, smaller theatre companies often resort to a sort of underground rehearsal circuit which involves squatting at some of the local colleges. Our wonderful city is blessed with some of the largest and most expansive universities in the world. Which means that there are acres of classrooms and halls that are virtually vacant after hours.
I know of very few theatre artists who have not, at some time or another, found themselves on the campus of one of our fair colleges, rehearsing in a classrooom and hoping that a group of students won't come along and kick them out.
There are ways to keep things slightly on the level. Somebody in your company is an employee of the university, or maybe a student. Or perhaps the artistic director is going to night classes there. But even with these connections it is a stressful and, well, illegal way to rehearse.
Over the past few years, one of these universities in particular has provided many a theatre company a nice convenient place to squat for rehearsals, but those days are over.
It appears that a theatre group seems to have violated the one overriding rule of university rehearsal squatting that seems like it should be instinctive, if not drilled into people.
Rule #1 of University Classroom Rehearsal Squatting: If even one student of that university wants to use the space you are in, you vacate that space immediately!
No questions asked. No complaining, no bargaining, no "can you wait one minute?" Go. Get out. Leave.
Well, now that this group has violated that rule, the university has had campus police do sweeps of classrooms and that puts the clampdown of rehearsals for the indefinite future. So, just a heads up to those without university affiliations at this very large technical college: Don't squat.
Perhaps there is a way we can bring this underground circuit up to the light, perhaps if small theatre companies can form a collective, we can approach the universities to work something out. I can't imagine they don't want to contribute to the artistic health of the city and environs.
Until then, I can't confirm or deny the existence of theatre companies squatting at universities other than the one involved.