After losing studio space, Temple SMASH launched an electronic petition to salvage the future of the show.
Students involved in Temple SMASH were shaken when they received word that they wouldn’t be able to continue scheduled programming for their first episode of the Spring 2012 semester.
Temple SMASH, an independent, student-produced live comedy show – influenced by Saturday Night Live – began in 2009 and has since been growing in popularity and recognition on and around Main Campus.
Starting with a cast and crew of approximately 15 members, the show now exceeds 60 participants.
“I think the show has gotten so impressive and has grown so much,” executive producer Emily Diego, a senior broadcast, telecommunications and mass media major, said.
But, when Temple SMASH creators, Kimberly Burnick and Scott McClennen, graduated and former Temple SMASH advisor, Frank Sauerwald, retired in May 2011, Diego and other Temple SMASH affiliates began to feel a “disconnect” with the administration of the School of Communications and Theater.
The main problem laid in the lack of an advisor for the organization, which is a necessity for obtaining studio space, mainly for insurance purposes.
“[Sauerwald] was always that person for us, so it was never really a concern for us until last semester,” co-executive producer Prince Schultz, a senior broadcast, telecommunications and mass media major, said.
While Diego studied abroad last semester, Schultz managed to organize a schedule of any SCT professors willing to volunteer to supervise the Temple SMASH studio-programming for a few hours, and successfully planned and created two episodes.
“We were under the impression that any professor, either full time or adjunct, in SCT in any of those majors would do,” Diego said.
But when Schultz presented Jack McCarthy, the director of operations and facilities, with a similar, yet complicated and incomplete, schedule at the beginning of this semester, the organization suddenly was not granted any studio time because of what Schultz thought was a lack of “explicit support from administration.”
“We had some communication with the administration but didn’t really get a clear picture of what they wanted from us, what we were supposed to do, how we were supposed to fulfill their needs,” Schultz said.
“I think part of it was growing pains and poor communication between administration and us,” Schultz added.
Knowing that they couldn’t work in the studio unless something changed, which ultimately would affect the future of the show, Schultz, Diego and others started an electronic petition for supporters.
The petition, with more than 500 signatures in just four days, “heightened our moral,” Diego, who has been working with Temple SMASH for three years, said.
“We got a lot of anonymous signatures, but there was also a great amount of people who wrote a very personal note about why the show has either helped them or somebody they knew,” Schultz, who has been working with Temple SMASH since his freshman year, said.
Diego and Schultz also planned a meeting with assistant dean of administration Donald Heller and interim dean Tom Jacobson to clarify all misunderstandings and ask for support for their beloved organization.
“It appeared to us that [administration] felt that the cons of Temple SMASH outweighed the pros, and basically, we then came in with the motive to demonstrate what the benefits of Temple SMASH were and explain to them why the pros actually weigh heavier than the cons,” Diego said.
Schultz said Heller and Jacobson were very receptive to their concerns and that they discussed the importance and necessity of having qualified instructors – who are also well-versed in the history of the show – during their time spent in the studio.
Having studio access – at least six, three to five hour days per episode – is a huge asset to the live-show format, and without it, not nearly as many departments, varying from writers to set crews, could be involved.
“Each [day] is absolutely vital to the process,” Schultz said.
Diego, who said she has gotten way more practical studio use doing Temple SMASH than she ever would have gotten in classes, said, “[Administration] must have not realized how big the student organization was and how practical it was and how really it’s an attraction point for students who are applying to Temple.”
“When tours come through the school of communications, they actually bring up Temple SMASH,” Schultz added.
Diego said that Temple SMASH would have come up with a compromise if not allotted studio time, but wanted to explain to Heller and Jacobson that being granted studio space helps organization members to “value the process a little bit more than the product,” as an educational mean.
After a much needed discussion, Diego and Schultz’s efforts were supported, with Heller and Jacobson promising to find a full-time faculty advisor and additionally providing a $300 budget per episode.
“Now that we’ve been able to have that exchange I think they feel much more comfortable with the show,” Schultz said. “Just to hear that we had gotten this overwhelming support from the dean’s office after going so long without being able to do it, it was fantastic.”
Although happy with administration’s decision, Diego said, “The only thing that’s a bummer is this has taken up our studio time and our first episode is going to be compromised.”
Temple SMASH members have been working outside of the studio in “quasi-production” the past few weeks, and Schultz said that although everyone has continued to rehearse, they are too behind in schedule to produce their first live show of the semester.
Instead, Temple SMASH will release an all-digital show after Spring Break and will return to their live-show format in April.
“We’re probably going to have a screening, maybe in The Reel, for the digital one we come up with because it’s cool that we still got work done even though we weren’t allowed to use the studio,” Diego said.
Lauren Hertzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full disclosure: Caitlin Weigel writes for Temple SMASH and is a columnist for The Temple News.