Rice Hall had found a new purpose with the Musical Theater Department. The department had been using the building as a site for rehearsals and select classes until a few weeks ago.
In January, the department was asked to take a temporary leave from the facility by the Physical Plant Department.
“PPD had all classes and rehearsal leave temporarily, and we’ve heard nothing back since then. That was about a month ago,” said sophomore musical theater major and performer Brady Day.
“Several weeks ago, during a cold spell, the water line for the lobby restroom froze, despite our efforts to prevent it from doing so,” the new PPD Director, Jessica Bastin, said. “The lobby restroom was closed for a period of time while we worked to thaw the line. Unfortunately, while it was closed, a number of individuals disregarded the ‘closed’ signs and chose to use the facilities anyway, leaving a substantial amount of human waste in the toilet fixture.”
Soon after the discovery that the restrooms were used, PPD began the cleanup process. While cleaning up, it was discovered that several other bathrooms throughout Rice Hall had also been vandalized including the restrooms located outside of the area designated for student use.
“Apparently individuals attempted to use these restroom facilities, even though they did not have running water. Human waste was left in toilets and sinks and, in some cases, spread along the ceilings, walls, and floors,” said Bastin. “The mess was beyond the ability of our staff and the housekeeping staff to safely clean, and we had concerns that continuing to allow access to the building in this condition could present health concerns. As a result, the decision was made to close Rice Hall and limit access to the building.”
“Rice got taken away very abruptly and most of us didn’t even know why,” said senior musical theater major Isabelle Yost. “We had put all of our props in storage there and had it all set up for classwork and for daily use.”
Junior musical theater major Jamie Valentine voiced similar concerns.
“During ‘The Medium,’ before the set at Byrum was finished, we were kicked out and had to adjust rehearsal schedules to accommodate that,” said Valentine. “On top of that, we could not start ‘South Pacific’ rehearsals on time, because we were left in the dark and could not get access to our props, which are still in Rice.”
The loss of Rice Hall as a meeting area has been quite an inconvenience to the Musical Theater Department.
“With the size of the department, having our own space to work is really necessary,” said sophomore Benjamin Elliot. “We can’t always use Byrum Hall, where our shows are staged, because sets are being constructed, work is being done and other classes are being conducted.”
The students had been using the building for rehearsals on a regular basis before being asked to leave.
“We were rehearsing ‘The Medium’,” said Day. “We’ve been having rehearsals there for many projects and shows.”
“It made our rehearsal process very stressful,” said Yost. “We never knew where we were going to be.”
As far as a timetable goes, nothing is quite clear about when the building can be used again.
“We are in the process of addressing the immediate health concerns, primarily the human waste,” said PPD Director Bastin, “Once this is complete, we will begin a more thorough assessment of what is needed to address the other building concerns While we compile the appropriate information, our leadership needs to determine the best use of Rice Hall moving forward.”
Even though the lack of rehearsal space is disheartening, the setback hasn’t discouraged the Musical Theater Department one bit.
“I don’t know that we will have any replacement space by the time I graduate,” said Elliot. “We are a hard-working department, and if we need to adapt and hold a class or a rehearsal on the roof of Dunn Hall, we will do it.”
Bastin explained that PPD is “committed to helping them find alternatives for relocating the props and costumes. Unfortunately, there is not a simple, inexpensive solution for addressing these concerns. It is disappointing that the actions of a handful of people have had such a negative impact for the Musical Theater department.”