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Stage Right

A flexible new space for MIT’s flourishing performing arts community.

October 24, 2017
Simon Simard

More than we know, our architecture shapes our community. The Main Group teaches lessons in openness, flexibility, and boldness. The Stata Center reflects and inspires creative irreverence. And while our dozens of campus maker spaces offer students wonderful opportunities to “build stuff,” they also serve to build our community of makers.

This fall, we mark the official opening of W97, a fresh new home for theater and performing arts that embodies and encourages all these signature aspects of our community.

A close collaboration between the architects, MIT Facilities, and MIT’s Theater Arts faculty transformed an aging Vassar Street warehouse into an imaginative 25,000-square-foot space that offers first-rate facilities for every aspect of making theater, including an adaptable, 180-seat, two-story black-box performance space and advanced shops for creating the sets, costumes, sound, and lighting that help a production come alive.

Our actors, dancers, directors, choreographers, designers, and stage crews at last have a space that lives up to their creativity—and that suits their growing numbers. Since 2012, enrollment in MIT theater classes has doubled. Today more than 800 undergraduates enroll in at least one each year.

These rising numbers reflect the remarkable caliber of our faculty, award-winning artists practicing at the top of their profession. Though most of their students will not pursue theater professionally, in theater arts classes all of them can find experiences that extend, enrich, and complement the rest of their education. It would be hard to find any department at MIT more devoted to learning by doing, fearless exploration, ingenious design, and practical problem-solving.

Many students also discover that theater offers lessons hard to find in the world of p-sets: lessons in navigating ambiguity, tackling problems that have no right answer, exploring unfamiliar cultures, and building empathy across differences of every kind. And for students just learning the art of presentation, theater can be a wonderful way to find confidence in their own voice.

In a spirit of joyful risk-taking, the students and faculty of MIT’s theater arts community pursue their aspirations with mind, hand, heart, body, and soul. Now that they have a single place to come together and room to build their dreams, I look forward to seeing all the ways they will strengthen our entire community.

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