2023 ASTC-USITT Renovation Challenge

April 6, 2023

The USITT Director’s Award was presented to the Oberlin College team.  Pictured here are Andrew McCraken, Nelson Gutsch, USITT Interim Executive Director Lea Asbell-Swanger, and ASTC Mentor Howard Glickman (Photo by Paul Sanow, ASTC)

In-person presentations by four teams of students highlighted the 2023 ASTC – USITT Venue Renovation Challenge.  The student presentations took place at USITT23 in St. Louis.  Each of the four teams chose a building on their campus as the subject for renovation.  Two projects were existing theatres in need of modernization and two were spaces to be converted to theatrical performance use. The teams created a concept and developed documentation that detailed their renovation plans.  The project culminated in the live presentation during the USITT conference.  A group of 5 ASTC members acted as judges and offered comments to the teams throughout the process and determined the final awards.

The winner of the Edgar L. Lustig Award of $2,500 was presented by ASTC President Heather McAvoy to the Sullivant Outdoor Venue Renovation by a team from The Ohio State University.  Lustig was a Founding member, its first Fellow, and the organization’s long-time Secretary and CFO.  The OSU project converted an underutilized pedestrian courtyard area between two existing buildings into a performance space while creating opportunities for art displays and study areas when performances are not occurring.  Besides a new outdoor stage, it upgraded a small indoor stage and provided performer support spaces.  The creative landscape design integrated the performance uses into the overall courtyard area.  The team consisted of theatre, architecture, and industrial design students.

Team members: Allison Summers, Daqi Bao, Erin Shaw, Jessica Hightower, Yun Yen
Faculty Advisor: Brad Steinmetz
ASTC Mentor: Patrick Barrett

The USITT Director’s Award of $1,000 was presented by Lea Asbell-Swanger, USITT Interim Executive Director, to students from Oberlin College for their renovation of Hall Auditorium on the Oberlin campus, which was built in 1953.  Like many buildings of this vintage, the team proposed to update the fly loft and grid, front of house lighting positions, lighting system, sound mix position and seating accessibility.  Two members of the team, Nelson Gutsch and Andrew McCracken gave a concise presentation of the renovation plans.

Team Members: Nelson Gutsch, Ansel Mills, Nova Gomez, Leanne O’Donnell, Andrew McCracken, Charley Davis
Faculty Advisor:  Eric Steggall
ASTC Mentor: Howard Glickman

The Ohio State University had a second team in the competition that took on a challenging project of renovating a church sanctuary into a collaborative, flexible performance space with rehearsal, classroom and support spaces on the lower level. The existing building is on the edge of campus where student artists and the community can connect on a daily basis.

Team Members: Michael Murphy, Lyndsay R. Holmes, Qiannan Wang, Elise Aultman, Braden Graves
Faculty Advisor: Brad Steinmetz
ASTC Mentor: Jerad Schomer

Students from Yale University presented a well-documented renovation of the Yale Cabaret.  The Cabaret is a unique space run by Yale students with a rotating artistic leadership that changes every year and presents a wide variety of performances.  The proposed renovation addressed the issues of an older building by re-designing the exterior and interior spaces to provide better use of space and resolve accessibility issues.  It re-conceived spaces and circulation by taking advantage of soon to be vacated offices on the upper floors.

Team Members: Miguel Angel Lopez, Ro Burnette, David DeCarolis, Cameron Waitkun
Faculty Advisor: Kirk Keen
ASTC Mentor: Tom Neville

ASTC and USITT sponsor the Venue Renovation Challenge for students to work with an ASTC professional and expose them to an alternate career in theatre as a theatre consultant that uses the diverse skills they learn in theatre and architecture training.  Creating and developing the plans to renovate a performance space puts those skills into practice and exposes the students to the process of theatre consulting.  

ASTC member Van Phillips organized and hosted the event. The jury consisted of ASTC members: D. Andrew Gibbs, Jedd de Lucia, Paul Luntsford, Chris Ochocki, and Steven Rust. The judges were quick to comment that they were impressed with each of the team’s work and had a difficult time making their final award decisions.

More information can be found here.