Ryerson theatre school students will have a new space in the Student Learning Centre (SLC) come fall 2016 after the university received full construction permits for the space in early December, the university has confirmed.
The roughly 17,423-square-foot space, which was originally intended to be filled by retail stores, will feature a performance theatre, two dance studios, a multi-purpose studio, a student support area and office space.
“It’s part of a new phase for the school,” said Peggy Shannon, chair of the theatre school. “I think that is a very positive and exciting thing.”
Construction and preparation informally began in August 2015, but the new permits will allow for construction to start on the mezzanine level, a partial floor that will bisect the SLC’s double-height ground floor.
Plans for the space include a box-office at street level and additional space for production and wardrobe. The mezzanine level will serve as an audio and lighting booth overlooking the performance space. Interim President Mohamed Lachemi declined to comment on the estimated cost of the repurposing.
“The existing building is in a state where we have to move students and faculty out of that building,” Lachemi said. “We want to give (students) better facilities and a better space where they can do their activities.”
New space on Yonge street will give students more exposure and a better opportunity to interact with the creative industry in Toronto, Lachemi said.
The current theatre school space on Gerrard Street East, which serves as the main home to acting, dance and production programs, was formerly the Ontario College of Pharmacy. Students have expressed admiration for the three-storey building constructed in 1885, but there have been challenges.
“I am sad that we are leaving–it’s very homey and cozy–but there are a lot of challenges,” said Emily Costa, a third-year production design student. “It is too small for the production sets we do. Especially for wardrobe … it is not big enough to have four or five shows in there working at a time.”
Another grievance for students is the absence of an elevator in the current building. Having to haul props and set parts up three flights of stairs has been difficult, said Costa. The new facilities in the SLC will have elevator access to all levels.
“The program is always growing so it is good to have more studio space for rehearsals because there are so many groups of people rehearsing at different times,” said Olivia Tharme, a first-year acting student.
The SLC, which was The Globe and Mail’s best designed building of 2015 and featured in Azure magazine alongside buildings from Singapore and the Netherlands, has theatre school students eager for the move.
Originally, the theatre school was supposed to move in spring 2015, however, Shannon said that the school “just wasn’t ready.”
The majority of the acting school will be relocated temporarily to Kerr Hall, while faculty offices and administration will be split between the Atrium on Bay and the SLC.
“It was very difficult to find a space to put all (the programs) together,” Lachemi said. “We did our best.”
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Jan. 27, 2016.