Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts
The Kiplinger stage is in the proscenium style with a large arch in the ceiling separating the stage from the auditorium. At full capacity, the theatre seats 470 people. It is the largest theatre in the Schwartz Center and is used for several types of performances, such as large film screenings and dance and theatre productions. Occasionally Cornell units and departments rent the space. Recently, the Department of Music used the stage to display pianos built throughout history.
Faculty use the stage for instruction. Performance faculty may ask students to give monologues in the space to hear how their voices carry to the back of the theatre. Students in lighting and sound work with instructors during class time and productions.
The Flex Theatre seats between 115 to 175 people. The seating uses manual hydraulic jacks, which allow the space to be easily transformed to fit the needs of the performers. The theatre is also used for the Performance Encounters series, where guest artists perform for students and the public.
The Film Forum is mainly a teaching space. The Centrally Isolated Film Festival is held in the room each year as well as two speaker series. Chase Palmer, the screenwriter for It, gave a lecture in the Film Forum in the fall of 2017. His film was very popular throughout the world.
The center’s main dance studio is visible from College Avenue. Each year students from dance, music, and lighting labs come together to create a lighting show. Light comes from the studio while dancers perform on the plaza. “Catching the Stars” was the theme in spring, 2018. Collaborating with PMA, Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute provided a telescope so that people could find stars and planets while at the event.
The Class of ’56 Dance Theatre is used not only for dance and acting classes but also for end-of-semester dance performances—choreographed by students. The theatre has retractable movie style seating for 130.
Seating 75 people, the Black Box is the smallest performance space in the center. Students use this space to perform their original work or adaptations. Several senior projects are held in the Black Box each year.
The film editing suites are in the basement of the center. Each station has two monitors and film editing software. In PMA, film classes and labs are popular, and often space is limited to students who declare performing and media arts as a major or film as a minor.
One of the most colorful spaces in the Schwartz Center, the costume shop is replete with fabric, shoes, and masks. A bunker accommodates more than 1,000 pairs of shoes—color and size coordinated. Everything is meticulously organized. Students in the costume design lab create wardrobe design for productions.
In the scene shop, faculty design sets and then translate them into working blueprints for each theatre production at the Schwartz Center. Staff, instructors, and students work together to create and build these intricate scenic designs. The shop creates everything from scratch, using woodworking, welding, electric, and many other techniques to bring faculty designs to fruition.
This recently renovated space has become the Schwartz Center Sound Stage. The state-of-the-art room will be used for teaching film classes and for creating and shooting films by students and faculty.
The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts houses the Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA). The center is constantly bustling as faculty teach and guide students through research in the theory and practice of theatre and performance, film and media, and dance. Students in PMA classes and productions come from across the Cornell campus.
Any Cornell student can participate in the center’s activities, which do not require a major or minor in the department. Students attend academic and studio classes as well as labs, where they gain hands-on experience in film editing, lighting, acting, dance, screenwriting, playwriting, set construction, costuming, global performance, and cinema history. Some labs focus on building a particular skillset, while others involve participation in a production.
The Schwartz Center has four performance spaces, as well as dance studios, film editing suite and film forum, costume shop, scene shop for building sets, and several teaching classrooms. Each of the performance areas is designed to accomplish the goals of faculty and students.
The center accommodates outstanding productions each year. In the fall of 2018, The Awakening of Spring by Frank Wedekind was performed in the Class of ’56 Flexible Theatre. David M. Feldshuh and Carolyn Goelzer, Performing and Media Arts, directed the production. The performance included 20 actors, a large two-story set, lighting expertise, and compelling costumes. Each year the Kiplinger Theatre hosts Locally Grown Dance, a large annual performance with original choreography from Cornell faculty and PMA students. The Centrally Isolated Film Festival, held in the Film Forum classroom, accepts submissions from students throughout the country and brings students together to view, curate, and evaluate their work.
“It is an amazing resource for students across the university to be involved in the arts—on the stage, behind the scenes, and in media,” says Sabine Haenni, Performing and Media Arts, and interim department chair. “Creative work is becoming increasingly important in the humanities. It involves the actual making of something, not just sitting and reading or observing. Being a part of this creative process is essential to an education in the humanities, and the work done in the Schwartz Center allows students to do practice as research.”