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New labs for creative performance research


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February 10, 2012

By Caitlyn Spencer

Redesigned theatre and music studios create innovative learning experiences.

University of Calgary drama and music students are polishing their creative skills in the renovated and newly named F.R. Matthews Theatre and rehearsal spaces that allow them to conduct experimental dramatic research and tune a room for acoustical accuracy.

‘Human exploration’ may not be the first words to come to mind when people think of a theatre, but students think of the F.R. Matthews Theatre as their new laboratory.

“In drama, our primary research is performance,” says Clem Martini, head of the Drama Department. “Our research involves audience and the human experience. Using the Yale University model, graduate students will operate the Matthews Theatre as their own arena of investigation.”

Currently, MA students direct mainstage plays for the Drama department’s annual season of performances. Martini says giving graduate students greater responsibility over programming in the Matthews Theatre will not only benefit them, but the department as a whole.

“We can now have the best of both worlds,” he says, “a theatre season in which faculty and guest artists direct, and a graduate season in which undergraduates have opportunity to observe graduate students’ research.”

The renovation also resulted in the addition of music rehearsal studios on the lower level. The Percussion Studios are specially configured to house percussion instruments for teaching and practicing. The Instrumental Music Rehearsal Studio was built to mimic the Eckhardt-Gramatté Concert Hall stage in the Rozsa Centre.

“The studio is acoustically treated, and can be ‘tuned’ by adjusting fabric panels on the wall and ceiling, similar to what is in place in the Concert Hall,” says William Jordan, head of the Music Department. The near sound-proof space also features storage for equipment and instruments, breakout rehearsal spaces, and a recording studio.

The renovations were made possible by a generous donation from F.R. (Dick) Matthews in 2010. The theatre and rehearsal spaces opened to students in fall 2011 and will had their grand opening celebration February 9, 2012.

“Mr. Matthews’ gift has given students more than a revitalized space,” says Kevin McQuillan, Dean of the Faculty of Arts. “He has given a commitment to ensuring the university continues to deliver innovative and enhanced student experiences in the performing arts.”