Move from Withycombe Hall signals new era for OSU Theatre

Withycomb+Hall+at+Oregon+State+University+in+Corvallis%2C+Ore.+on+Aug.+3.+The+OSU+College+of+Liberal+Arts+and+Theater+are+all+shifting+their+spaces+with+the+addition+of+a+new+performing+arts+building+and+the+reopening+of+Fairbanks+Hall.%0A%0A

Jess Hume-Pantuso

Withycomb Hall at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore. on Aug. 3. The OSU College of Liberal Arts and Theater are all shifting their spaces with the addition of a new performing arts building and the reopening of Fairbanks Hall.

Haley Stark, News Contributor

Coinciding with rehearsals for “Twelfth Night,” Oregon State University’s Theatre Department is moving out of Withycombe Hall to make room for a new dairy plant in collaboration with Tillamook.

For Program Coordinator of Theatre and director of “Twelfth Night” Elizabeth Helman, the Aug. 31 deadline for the move combined with Bard in the Quad has created a hectic schedule for herself and students participating in the play.

“We’re in the process of moving out right now, so it’s a lot of work and this is something new for us,” Helman said. “By day, we’re packing everything up and figuring out where it’s gonna live in the short term and in the long term, and then at night we’re rehearsing out here getting bit by bugs, but we all felt it was really important to keep this program going just because the students are here to learn to act and be in shows and make theatre and design and not speed their days in a dirty basement packing up boxes and trying to get away from silverfish.”

Dmitri Rose, who plays Feste in “Twelfth Night,” is one of the students helping out with the move, working day and night to make the process run as smoothly as possible. While this is only his first year at the school, seeing Withycombe cleared out of everything theatre-related was a reflective moment for him.

“It’s really gorgeous and empty and sad, but it’s like ‘okay, we’re doing good work,’ so it’s a mixed bag,” Rose said. 

First announced in summer of 2021, OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences received $20 million to replace its 70-year old dairy plant from a number of private donors listed in the project’s press release. The new plant comes as one of the major updates slated for Withycombe Hall’s $51 million renovation, but Theatre will not be returning to the building it has occupied for 30 years.

According to Helman, theatre’s equipment and personnel will be spread out across multiple buildings. Snell Hall will host spaces for costume and set design as well as house offices for instructors. Acting classes will be held in Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building, which actually originated as OSU’s theater.

Without access to the Withycombe black box theater, Helman has had to think outside the box to find performance venues for the program. She intends on keeping some projects on campus, but she also plans on moving some shows out of Corvallis. While Helman cannot yet reveal any of the locations she’s secured, she teases exciting new opportunities for the upcoming school year.

“We’re kind of on the road for a lot of stuff,” Helman said. “We have a lot of interesting site-specific projects, taking advantage of some things on the coast. We have some really cool venues with organizations and other research institutions that are affiliated with OSU, so it’s going to be kind of cool.”

Theatre will find a permanent new home in the Arts and Education Complex when it opens in 2024, hosting a brand new black box theater.