By Elise Most
After two years of renovations, Roble Gym reopened this quarter with housing facilities for the Department of Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS) and a brand new “Arts Gym” dedicated to student use.
The new facilities for the TAPS department include the following: three dance studios, two acting studios, a black box theater, classrooms and offices.
Branislav Jakovljevic, associate professor of theater and performance studies, feels that the renovated Roble Gym is a huge upgrade.
“I think one thing that the department and the University gets with the reopening of Roble Gym is flexibility, and that flexibility is epitomized in Roble Studio Theater,” said Jakovljevic. He added that the new black box theater allows students to experiment with different seating arrangements and thus different acting styles.
Victor Ragsdale ’19, a TAPS major, concurred that the theater’s flexibility is an improvement and also pointed out that the addition of theater space on West Campus is a bonus.
“The only thing I’m not too fond of about this space is that [Memorial Auditorium] is more accommodating because costumes and props are there,” he said.
However, the novelty of the Arts Gym may be more appealing to students than the TAPS spaces.
“This is the first time that this kind of facility [the Arts Gym] has existed on campus,” said Claudia Dorn, office of student productions manager for the Stanford Arts office of the associate dean.
The Arts Gym includes studio space with a projector, screen, sound system and movable mirrors; a messy art space for painting and other art forms; a music room and a conference room.
Although students must bring their own art supplies to the messy art space, the music room provides musicians with an electric keyboard, a drum kit and a guitar, as well as a PA system and recording booth.
“In a nutshell, Roble Arts Gym is a dream come true,” said Tyler Brooks ’17, shift manager. “You can drop in and tinker around just like how the athletes use [the Arrillaga gyms], but it’s more special because you can create in this space. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
In addition to offering space for students to create, the Arts Gym provides programming. On Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m., students can explore a different art medium each week, such as watercolor or clay. The gym will provide the required art supplies.
According to Dorn, student groups can reserve space in the Arts Gym for three hours per week on a recurring basis. Students may also drop in and use the space during open hours.
“I’m very excited about Roble Gym opening up again because it opens up the opportunity for student groups to do big events,” said Karen Lu ’17, executive director of the dance group Bent Spoon. Lu explained that the large windows, lighting, balcony, quality floors and spaciousness in the biggest TAPS dance room provide a convenient performance venue.
After struggling to find space on campus to rehearse, student dance groups are thankful to have Roble Gym back, but many are still working hard to reserve spaces to dance and hold performances.
“It’s an art space dedicated to us, and has better amenities, but at the same time the major problem is space, not amenities,” said Courtney Urbancsik ’18, co-director of the dance group Urban Styles.
Austyn Lee ’18, co-captain of the dance groups XTRM and Dv8, agreed with Urbancsik. He expressed appreciation for Roble Gym, but affirmed that the struggle for dance space continues despite its reopening.
According to Lee and Urbancsik, rooms in Arrillaga Gym previously available for dance groups have been recently converted for other uses, meaning that the amount of space for rehearsals on campus has essentially remained the same even with the reopening of Roble Gym.
“We’re definitely glad that we have the gym because the last two years were really hard. This year, at least it got a little better,” said Alex Fu ’17, president of the dance group Swingtime. Yet she still feels that her group has to work excessively hard to find room.
When asked about the space issues, Dorn maintained that the recurring reservation system should take some of the stress off the dance groups.
“We’re always open for suggestions,” said Dorn. “Students have 100 percent priority.” She emphasized that students can come to her or the Art Gym’s student staff with ideas for improvement.
Jakovljevic added, “We are still learning how to use this space. It’s exciting to learn about these possibilities, but we all need a little bit of patience to see how we can use it best for us and for other interested users.”