Black box theater designed for student performances and productions

Christiaan Patterson

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The “Big Love” cast rehearse for the first time inside the new experimental theater at VPAC Monday night, Jan. 24. Photo Credit: Christiaan Patterson / Staff Reporter

Students will be able to perform at the new black box theater housed in the Valley Performing Arts Center. The first student performance scheduled is “Big Love,” a retelling of an ancient Greek story about the battle of the sexes that is set to open Feb. 11.

The current black box theater was built 50 years ago and has limited seating capacity and is a single-story structure. The new experimental theater is a three-story construction with 170 seats encircling the entire floor.

“It’s a totally different space with more seating capacity,” said Robert Bucker, dean of Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication. “A space built specifically for experimental theater provides countless opportunities with versatility.”

Unlike the former space, this new theater provides a grid, which allows lighting personnel to walk on while a show is taking place instead of utilizing a ladder.

The flooring is adaptable to fit all different types of shows. It is a sprung floor, similar to a basketball court, designed for dance rather than the traditional concrete.

Bucker said another handy specification to the black box is its scene shop that is adjacent to the performance space. Its convenient location allows for props to be moved directly into the room rather than having it stored in a room distant from the theater.

Since VPAC is brand new, all performances in the experimental theater for the spring semester will be held exclusively by students and not outside theater groups. This will allow students and faculty a chance to adapt to the new area and really receive a feel for the place.

“We are all excited about moving in,” said William Taylor, a professor in the department of theater. “The kids will be gobsmacked. It’s an old English/British term. Google it!”

Taylor expressed his appreciation to CSUN President Jolene Koester for taking on the huge task of raising half of the $125 million to pay for the VPAC. He said thanks to her many private investors donated money including the late Henry Mancini, who was the music composer for the “Pink Panther,” which built the orchestra pit.

“These are such large gifts we’re paying half the price for and getting twice the bargain,” Taylor said. “It’s all worth it.”

The first student rehearsal inside the black box by the cast of “Big Love” took place Jan. 24. When the doors finally opened and they were permitted to enter, the students reacted with smiles and awe.

Freshman Alyx Cohen, who plays a bride in Big Love, was among the first students to enter the black box theater.

“This is a fantastic gift for the performing arts,” Cohen said. “A place like this is an honor and is different than all the others. (It’s) very illuminating and exciting.”

She said she had her first class in one of the state of the art classrooms, yet didn’t have the privilege of witnessing the performance hall. Cohen described the classroom as leading her and her fellow classmates to believe they were attending a genuine art school rather than a university.