Spingold Theater celebrates 50 years of student performance

October 2, 2015

50 years ago, in June 1965, Brandeis’ Spingold Theater was opened in dedication to Nate B. and Frances Spingold. Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Stacey Winkler ’98 wrote an article on the theater, found on the theater’s website, celebrating its 50 years. “The development of the Spingold Theater Arts Center was a fitting cap to the Spingolds’ long commitment to the arts and philanthropy and was met with boundless optimism and enthusiasm,” she writes.

In its 50 years, Spingold Theater has hosted a multitude of events, from religious services, to plays and musicals to first-year Orientation events. While some students don’t set foot back in the theater after Orientation has ended, others practically live and find a home there.

“I love the roof of Spingold,” Rachel Liff ’16 said. “The view is beautiful, and it’s a really interesting theatrical space. I also spend 90 percent of my time in the academic administration office.” This semester, Liff will direct the song cycle “Songs for a New World” on the building’s Mainstage. While it is much easier to design sound for the Mainstage than for the Laurie, a smaller, more intimate room, the size of the Mainstage is daunting.

“‘Songs for a New World’ is a five-person show, so I had to be really conscious of using the space to my advantage while working with the designers and actors. I wanted to make sure the show wasn’t lost because of the large area,” Liff said.

Professor Adrianne Krstansky (THA) remembers the first time that she entered Spingold. She describes the experience as “disorienting” yet “thrilling.”

“When I first came inside, the feeling of not knowing what lay around the next corner was completely enthralling to me,” Krstansky said. “There is something about that that resonates with a creative process—the willingness to keep going though you don’t know what will come next!”

According to Winkler, Spingold’s complex design came from the need to combine “utility with an aesthetic ideal.” The round shape makes it so all performing and rehearsing spaces are connected to a central hub. However, this does not always work according to plan. If given one thing to change about Spingold, Liff’s choice would be easy: “Soundproofing!” With such a design, sound travels easily, and even with doors shut, it is hard for more than a few rehearsals to be going on at once.

Some believe that the building is overdue for an upgrade. Krystansky cites the need for better air conditioning and heating, and repairs to the roof and the staircase next to the theater. Despite these needs, she refuses to believe that the building is past its prime. “I do not believe or expect that everything I encounter in my life needs to be new in order to be better.”

While the building does lack some comforts, one thing that Spingold has plenty of is character. Krstansky’s favorite place in the entire building is a small opening next to the booth, at the top of the audience, in the Merrick Theater. “If I sit on the floor and curl up my legs I can fit right in there,” she said.

From this spot, Krstansky says she can watch the audience and the stage together. It is where she sits for the opening night of any show that she directs there.

Spingold Theater has seen 50 years of Brandeis theater and arts students. While its age is showing, it will continue to provide many more generations of students with the same intriguing and exciting atmosphere that is has so far.

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