A Most Rare Vision: UNCG Crafts New Stages For Theatre Students

Posted on August 21, 2023

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“Honoring the past – building the future.”

This is the new slogan for the UNCG School of Theatre, and it perfectly describes the School of Theatre’s persevering spirit as it sails into its 102nd year and brings new comforts and changes to one its performance space for the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). The Taylor Theatre building on campus is headed into its 55th year of being a part of UNCG. As a result, this building has survived historic changes to the world of theatre and technology. In the Fall of 2023, the theater will install a new HVAC system. The system is set to be housed in a newly constructed building next to the theater with the intention of building comfort for both the audience and the performers. 

Prospective Students watch a production at Taylor Theatre
Inside Taylor Theatre during a 2019 production of “Witches.”

School of Theatre Director Natalie Sowell says not to worry about missing performances because there is a plan in place for the department over the next two years. 

“We are a little bit nomadic,” says Sowell. “We’ve spent the last two years in meetings talking about what to do when the switch finally happens, and what’s the priority? We have a couple of people moving to the Brown Building, and the rest of us are going into the old School of Nursing building. It’s important for us to be together because theatre is such a collaborative art form. We need that space to run into each other and be engaged with one another.” 

All students, faculty, and staff will be leaving Taylor Theatre for two years while the renovations are being performed. In the meantime, faculty in the School of Theatre have come up with new ways to make sure no UNCG student misses out on an amazing education opportunity.  

“Something that’s directly related to the shift out of Taylor is the opportunity to try some new things and to work on some new ways of doing theatre.” says Sowell. 

What’s new with theatre – Community 

Outside photo of UNCG Moore Nursing Building
UNCG Moore Nursing Building where some of the School of Theatre staff will work while Taylor Theatre is under construction.

Sowell says professors like Roberto Arce-Martinez, assistant professor of movement/acting, has helped them lay the groundwork for adapting. “One of the things that Roberto and I bring to the School of Theatre is a theatre for social change and a framework of community-based theatre engagement.” 

For the first time, the School of Theatre will be holding a community-based theatre project in the Spring of 2024. The goal is to think about the stories that community members are interested in hearing and how to share them. The community theatre will be held in downtown Greensboro at the Elsewhere Museum.  

Sowell says, “What we did with that was draw on our new mission statement and really push us forward, leaning forward into intentionally expanding our possibilities so that the students know lots of ways they can make theatre.” 

What’s new with theatre – Television 

The School of Theatre is also looking for a way to expand and adjust their existing educational system by incorporating media and film.  

Sowell says, “We know that when our students graduate, they’re not just doing stage work. They’re also in film and on video, doing work on TV. It’s important for them to get that training.”  

Working with Associate Professor Michael Flannery, UNCG’s specialist on acting for the camera, and with collaboration from the Department of Media Studies, UNCG Theatre has launched a YouTube series as part of their Fall 2023 theatre season. “How the Hell is our Final Exam a Scavenger Hunt” will launch with a community screening on August 26 at 4 p.m. in the Moore Nursing Building Auditorium.  After the screening, there will be a new episode to watch every week on the UNCG Theatre YouTube channel.  

What’s the goal – community  

Students performing in a 2022 production of "The Wild Party" in the Pam and David Sprinkle Theatre.
Students performing in a 2022 production of “The Wild Party” in the Pam and David Sprinkle Theatre.

During this time, UNCG’s Pam and David Sprinkle Theatre will still be available for productions. The Taylor Theatre will be back open to students and the public once the upgrades are complete. Sowell says, “Taylor became a community location for folks to really think through the learning of theatre.”   

Its century-long impact is felt not just by students, as UNCG has allowed the Greater Greensboro Community to use that space for other performances and education. Additionally, it’s been a source of entertainment for young audiences thanks to programs such as the North Carolina Theatre for Young People.  

“We have a really good opportunity for us to reassess and really think through what it is who we want to be as a school,” says Sowell, “And how we want to support the training of the next generation of theatre makers.”    

The UNCG Theatre department has announced its fall session of production.

Story by Dana Broadus, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona and Martin W. Kane, University Communications

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