Tentative plans are in place for the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) to vacate Roble Gym. Stanford Drama and Dance Division are slated to take over the space.
“It seems to be the general plan that DAPER will be moving out of Roble, and Drama/Dance will have use of the spaces in Roble that they are vacating,” Drama Department chair Peggy Phelan wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.
Don Intersimone, director of Facilities and Capital Planning, confirmed that DAPER would vacate Roble’s locker rooms, showers and swimming pool.
“Drama will have the opportunity to make use of [those spaces],” Intersimone said.
He added that this development would “provide additional flexibility for Drama in the Roble Gym complex.”
Roble Gym has deteriorated since its 1931 opening. Last August, Santa Clara County officials shut down the main performance space, Roble Studio Theater, due to safety concerns. Phelan said a study to bring the space up to code is currently being conducted, but added that it made little sense to fix the theater without undertaking a major overhaul of the building.
“The need for more theater and performance spaces here is absolutely urgent,” Phelan said.
There are only a few performance spaces for theater on campus. Prosser Studio and the Nitery both seat fewer than 100 people. Pigott Theater seats 194, and Memorial Auditorium (MemAud) seats 1,705.
“MemAud is too big for the kinds of experimental works I think universities should be pursuing, and the acoustics are not ideal,” Phelan said.
“We cannot make a great show highlighting student performances and put it in a lecture hall,” Phelan said.
The problem of finding performance space is not exclusive to theater groups. The Dance Division similarly lacks “a good space with decent sight lines and a sprung floor,” Phelan said.
These issues could be addressed once drama and dance take over Roble Gym. Phelan, for one, expressed optimism about this development.
“Like many universities, Stanford has been slow to absorb the value of the arts as a primary way of knowing and experiencing the world,” she said. “However, in recent years, I do feel I have been getting a hearing and that the administration has supported the efforts of the arts faculty.”
Stephen Sano, chair of the Music Department, similarly said these developments were “big steps forward.”
“The University knows there’s a lot to do and is exploring” ways to address the needs of different departments, he said.
Sano noted that the Music Department faced concerns similar to those expressed by Dance and Drama. He pointed out that the two main spaces for musical performance on campus, Dinkelspiel Auditorium and Campbell Recital Hall, lack the proper acoustics required of concert venues.
Nevertheless, Sano said the University has started to pay more attention to the arts. The largest and most visible of these changes is Bing Concert Hall. Currently under construction, the venue will be part of the new “Arts District,” complementing the Cantor Arts Center and the new Art and Art History building.
Another big step is the newly created position of executive director of arts programs, now held by Matthew Tiews. This marks the first time Stanford has hired a high-level administrator to unify the different arts departments under one umbrella.
Tiews described his new office as “a hub for all the programming, creativity and activity around the arts.”
His main goal is to move the Arts Initiative, one part of the Stanford challenge, out of startup mode and to “make this [initiative] part of the ongoing life at Stanford.”
Tiews acknowledged that many students don’t currently think of the arts as an area that Stanford prioritizes. However, he was adamant that the University is improving on this front. He emphasized the need to raise awareness “so that people know about the opportunities available in the arts.”
“Stanford has made a big commitment to make it clear that it really does care about the arts,” he said.