Marie Sykes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“The show must go on” may be a common saying in the world of show business, but the Ursinus Theatre and Dance department certainly takes this saying to a whole other level. Last year, Ursinus was more than lucky to be able to enjoy performances through the Fringe Festival, UCDC Box Collective, radio shows, livestream play performances, and even an outdoor dance concert. However, just as one problem seemed to dim, another rises: the Kaleidoscope facing summer mold issues and parts of it sinking two inches after Hurricane Ida. Dr. Meghan Brodie, chair of the Theatre and Dance department and director of Pride and Prejudice, gave an interview to set the record straight on what exactly happened and what will come next.
To begin, Dr. Brodie clarified that the mold and sinking issues are two entirely different problems, and “absurd bad luck.” Last August, due to a combination of keeping the windows open to let in fresh air (due to Covid), the AC turning on less frequently due to lack of use, and the “ridiculously hot and humid” weather, mold encompassed various parts of the Kaleidoscope, but the department were able to catch the warning signs early enough to avoid further damage. They isolated the various parts of the Kaleidoscope to begin the cleaning process. As of September 27, the production has now returned to practicing the performance in the Black Box, a secondary performance area to the Lenfest Theatre. Facilities concluded the mold was not threatening and plans to test the space again before letting anyone return.
The mold affected various events around campus. Fringe Festival events are being moved on a week-by-week basis. However, Dr. Brodie said events “have been a success” outside of the Kaleidoscope, with the drag show even “[attracting] a huge crowd!” With Pride and Prejudice premiering at the end of October, they will have to make every second they have to practice in the Black Box count. Until then, Dr. Meghan Jones, the technical director, redesigned the entire set in seventy-two hours after the mold and hurricane caused delays. Not to fret, it is “an equally impressive and dynamic set” and will be sure to look fantastic all the same for the production! However, the costume department suffered greatly. They lost 400+ pairs of shoes and “voluntarily dispos[ed] of at least 30%” of the theatre’s costumes to try to mitigate the costs of the mold damage.
Luckily, Hurricane Ida did not make the mold worse. But it sank the Design Studio, the Props Closet, and the Rehearsal/Dance Studio two inches. “The rumors of eight inches were certainly exaggerations or misunderstandings,” Brodie clarified. Within forty-eight hours after the hurricane subsided, a bystander was able to notice the water soaking into the building. Both Dr. Jones and Director of Facilities, Steve Geringer, responded a half hour later. A structural engineer evaluated the building and while those three floors had sunk, the rest of the building was declared “safe and structurally sound.”
It will take time before these areas can be repaired, but until then nobody will be allowed to work in these spaces. An architect was consulted, too. When the building is not in use, repairs will start. “I imagine we might be without these rooms for at least the rest of this semester since jackhammering cement floors would probably disrupt anything happening in the building…” Dr. Brodie says.
Lastly, Dr. Brodie would like to thank “Steve Gehringer, Carol McMillan, Meghan Jones, James Futter, Shannon Zura, Karen Clemente, the Dean’s Office, and the Pride and Prejudice cast and production team for their tremendous hard work.” Fixing the Kaleidoscope and maintaining their current productions is a team effort. Even though “there was no way mold and sinking floors were going to deter us from teaching, making art, building community, and persevering,” it still is a difficult task to work through. She highlights that if COVID did not stop theatre and dance productions, the damage would not either. Go support everyone this semester by attending the Fringe Festival, dance concerts, and Pride and Prejudice!