Theater dept. responds to Barton demolition

The Temple News follows up with its coverage of the exclusion of rehearsal space for theater students in the 20/20 plan. Since then, no solution has been proposed. While walking through the third floor of

TIMOTHY VALSHTEIN TTN Barton Hall, a central building on Main Campus, will be torn down this summer to make way for a research facility. The building currently houses many of the theater department’s classes and rehearsal spaces.

The Temple News follows up with its coverage of the exclusion of rehearsal space for theater students in the 20/20 plan. Since then, no solution has been proposed.

While walking through the third floor of Barton Hall, one may be surprised to hear laughing, crying and maybe even barking. Aside from the crying, these are not exactly the sounds one would expect to hear in a mathematics and science building.

Located across the street from Tomlinson Theater at 1900 N. 13th St., Barton Hall also houses most of the theater department’s classes, but this is soon to change after the destruction of Barton as per the 20/20 plan.

A landmark of Main Campus since the 1960s, the large, centrally located building will soon be demolished as part of the university’s 20/20 plan. The various science and technology classes currently held in Barton will be moved to the planned $137 million research building that will be constructed adjacent to Anderson and Gladfelter halls.

In the 20/20 plan, however, there is no proposed replacement for the studio spaces and classrooms used by the theater department.

“Barton’s age makes it inadequate as a modern classroom/laboratory location,” James Creedon, senior vice president for construction, facilities and operations, said. “It would be extremely expensive to upgrade the building to meet contemporary academic needs. The Science and Research Building will replace and dramatically improve the teaching and research space currently in Barton.”

The studio spaces in Barton are furnished with full-length mirrors, storage space and rehearsal furniture. As they are more than 50 years old, however, the rooms are starting to show their age.

“The building is not properly equipped for theater classes,” junior theater major Anna Lou Hearn said. “All but four of my theater classes have been in Barton. There is very little space for theater majors and performers. There is poor lighting [and] no soundproofing. I don’t want to hear what is going on in the next room.”

The rooms on the third floor serve as classrooms throughout the day and as rehearsal spaces at night.

“It certainly wouldn’t be a first choice, but when all else fails, it is the best bet,” Jacynda Purnell, a freshman theater major said.

The rooms are often in use by students rehearsing for Temple Theaters productions like “Top Girls and various directing and acting projects.

Ill-equipped as it may be, Barton is essential to the success of the theater department’s many main stage and student projects. The only other place where students are able to practice is the rehearsal hall located in Tomlinson, which is often booked weeks in advance.

“A lot of us are struggling now to get the rehearsal space we need or to have a place we can use for our performance,” Purnell said. “Demolishing Barton Hall will simply make this issue worse.”

The 20/20 plan as it currently stands does include some positive enhancements for Temple Theaters, including a head house that will solve the current entrance problems and stand at the head of the planned quad area.

Though no plans have been set in stone, there has been some progress made in finding a replacement for the theater department.

“We are already in the beginning stages of substantive communication with the Provost about how the university will handle this pending facilities challenge in a way that serves the critical existing and future needs of our department,” Marie Chiment, interim head of the theater department, said in an email.

Barton will continue to be used as it stands for a few years to come, at least until the new science building is finished, but students and professors alike expressed concern for the future.

Thomas Jacobson, acting dean of the School of Communications and Theater, said he is aware of the uncertainty in the department.

“Nothing is settled yet,” Jacobson said. “The university has hired a consulting firm to analyze classroom utilization on campus. They are looking into many issues, [and] a replacement for Barton Hall for theater’s needs is among the many.”

“It is a well-developed, comprehensive plan,” Jacobson added. “Some buildings are already well under way, [and] others remain on the drawing board. It is not even planned for completion until 20/20.”

Students in the theater department have their own hopes and ideas about replacing Barton.

“If we could get even half of the space Barton uses, a mini building with 10 rooms, that would make a profound difference,” Hearn said. “This isn’t possible, but taking away space and not replacing it is illogical.”

The theater department has high hopes that the change will result in bigger, better spaces, which will help improve the quality of instruction and productions in the long run.

“We are hoping that this process will lead to an approved plan for replacing and enhancing our access to adequate discipline-specific industry grade teaching, dance studios, design studios and rehearsal spaces,” Chiment said.

Luckily for the department, the university is not planning on tearing down Barton without first creating a solution to the loss of space. The building will remain in use until there is a suitable substitution.

Rehousing the theater studios and classrooms is one of the top priorities of the continual planning and restructuring of the university.

“Replacement of the space used by the theater department in Barton will be part of the planning that will occur over the next year to allow for the demolition of Barton,” Creedon said.

TJ Creedon can be reached at

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