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In theatres near you: Kulas gets repairs

May 5th, 2011

This year’s long and harsh winter has not only been a damper for the people in this community, it has also created some problems for the facilities at JCU. Kulas Auditorium showed signs of ceiling leakage from the melted snow and the heavy rain that hit Cleveland in the past few months.

Initially the idea to build a new roof in the auditorium was identified this past summer and the building for it began in the fall. According to Carol Dietz, the University’s associate vice president of facilities, the project was too extensive to finish in one semester and will be completed by the end of the summer.

Originally a gymnasium, Kulas Auditorium was established in 1965 and has been the main center for theatre arts on campus. Since its beginning, it hasn’t undergone any renovations unlike many other JCU facilities like the RecPlex, which has been updated three times since it was built, said theatre professor Keith Nagy.

“Kulas is not really designed to be a theatre and, structurally, there’s a lot of things that need to be repaired,” said sophomore Brendan Hancock, who has acted in previous JCU shows.

The recent performance of “Medea” even had to be moved to the Marinello Little Theatre because of the poor condition of the auditorium. According to junior Tim Mauk, a work study student who works with Nagy, this was a big inconvenience for the show’s crew. “It affected the crew making it [the set], because we had a smaller area to work with, and we had to adapt the aisle way.”

Staff and students that work with theatre in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts and perform on stage have noticed over the past couple years the deteriorating ceiling, outdated carpet and seats, run-down stage, and tattered curtains.

“I think the drapes are as old as 1965,” said Nagy.

Mauk has been responsible for cleaning up a lot of the damage that has resulted from the poor building condition. “Every time I come in, I’m usually sweeping up pieces of ceiling. The upper balcony has been closed off to students since the beginning of this year, which says a lot about the safety [of the building].”

There were plans in 2007 and 2008 to transform the auditorium into a state-of-the-art, multi-use venue but the project required an outstanding $15 million to complete so the idea was dismissed, said Nagy.

Hancock said, “I think an update to the theatre would give the theatre department a better image. If you have something that looks professional, you’re going to have a better image of the theatre here. And if you have a visually pleasing theater, people would think that the shows are better as well.”

With a better facility, Kulas could attract outsiders as well as students who want to come and audition for shows, which would make John Carroll’s theatre program much stronger down the road, Hancock also noted.

For now, the roof is the main concern with the auditorium and “once the exterior roof is complete, we will repair and paint the ceiling,” said Dietz.

Kulas was once a flourishing center for theatre and arts, not only for John Carroll productions but also for other shows and acts throughout other regions of Cleveland, Nagy said.

“Jesuit schools make theatre more a extracurricular than a discipline,” said Nagy. “Ever wonder why students don’t come to Kulas? This is why.”

Junior Taylor Nagy, who has been in three shows in Kulas Auditorium, said, “The condition of Kulas seems to be unattractive to audiences and may be a factor in the low attendance at shows and speakers.”

“I definitely think that a remodeling of the auditorium would improve the number of people that attend the events at JCU, and there’s a lot more things that go on other than theatre in Kulas that students can participate in,” said junior Dan Simpson, who has acted in previous JCU shows.