Photo: Sean Tepper

Move-out plans upset RTS students

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By Brandon Buechler

Plans for the Ryerson Theatre School’s (RTS) move out of 44 Gerrard St. appear to be set in stone. But not all students are satisfied with their interim homes.

By the end of the Summer 2016 academic semester, Ryerson’s three performance programs -— acting, dance and production — will be settling into new spaces.

Ryerson’s dance faculty will be occupying facilities in the basement of the Student Learning Centre (SLC), while many production and acting classes will be based in Kerr Hall and other buildings.

Second-year acting student Ryan Tapley said many RTS students are concerned not only with the loss of space in the move, but also a perceived lack of transparency regarding plans for the move.

“One of the big problems is that we are losing studio space — something that was already hard to come by,” said Tapley. “But also that we were just told about these [detailed] plans now, and the final move is in August. So already, we’re far beyond the point of no return.”

Tapley, a former representative of the second-year acting class, said he never received an invitation to discuss the transition, nor did second-year production representatives. Tapley was part of an informal committee of faculty and students discussing RTS student issues.

He said if faculty kept students updated on the process — even without asking for input — the plans, announced last Monday, would’ve been easier to accept.

James Butler, a fourth-year production student, said the school’s intake of feedback on the plan isn’t enough to constitute student input.

“When students give feedback, there’s either a very reasonable response … or a beat-around-the-bush response,” he said. “When physically, our issues will never be addressed.”

Compounding the issue is the staff’s delivery of the moving plans. 

“One of the most disappointing things is that the move is being sold to [students] as a wonderful thing,”  said Tapley. “What would be more honest, would be, ‘Alright, here’s what’s happening, it’s not perfect, we’re doing the best we can.’” 

Besides loss of studio space, students are concerned with the loss of cross-disciplinary opportunities.

“Because we have this building, the theatre school, that is ours … doorways open that I never would have known about,” said Tapley.       

He said this cross-disciplinary training was one of the reasons he chose Ryerson over other schools.

“You get this well-rounded look at all the business of performance as opposed to being sequestered into specific disciplines,” he said.

Butler said the school’s argument that the SLC provides ample collaboration space isn’t a fair assessment for theatre students.

“[Theatre students] don’t have all these floors of shared space —we have all these floors of shared space with 30,000 students,” said Butler. “[RTS] programs are unique in a lot of ways and we don’t expect the rest of the school  to be accomodating.”

Constraints of being a downtown campus are not lost on students, Tapley said.

“Is it better to be sequestered away than to die in a building collapse? Of course. It just would’ve been nice if that’s how they worded it, instead of, ‘This is great, this is better than before,’ which it isn’t — it’s a lateral movement.”

RTS chair Peggy Shannon said students’ dissatisfaction with the moving plan is unfortunate, but that she believes it is a positive change.

Evan Sandham, the president of Ryerson’s Theatre School Student Union, said he’s optimistic about the SLC facilities, but that students are concerned the university will be complacent with the temporary holdings.

“We fear that once we’re in our new space … the university will not move forward with the plan to eventually open a new theatre school,” he said.

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