Lots in a name, and building

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.

The Bartlett Theatre is named for Alice Bartlett, (discussed in the speech section; “she who trod the boards before”). It can be described as an arena, experimental, or theatre in the round. It has seen good – if sometimes controversial, use. Later, another experimental theatre was improvised from a storage room. (Storage was and remains a problem for theatre and at this writing a major redo is under way for Rockefeller.)

What about speech? A classroom was constructed in the art wing right next to the elevator. It was an odd room in that it had an observation room larger than the classroom complete with one-way glass and shaped like an “L.”

Fortunately one pane of glass cracked, (with a little help), and the room was reconfigured properly. The room is now part of the ceramics area. Across the hall were practice rooms for speech activities.

The Department of Art seemed to fare pretty well with north facing studios, galleries, and offices. Offices were a problem. Irv Smith felt that the first floor main office should be for Theatre, which would have been convenient. Instead the chair’s office was placed on the second floor next to the art department.

Over the years many great productions and products have been produced in Rockefeller. One oddity, within my field, was showing films. Marvel was given a projection booth and the ability to hang a screen and it was windowless. Oddly enough King, with giant windows and a control-projection booth reached by three flights of stairs has probably shown more films to more people. (Witness the popularity of travel shows.) Its booth was equipped with professional but 16mm Bauer Projectors. (It was felt that we should not compete with the local movie theatres by showing in 35mm.) Because of the windows it is very difficulty to show films during the day. A rear screen system was the solution.

The Instructional Resources Center was responsible for certain installations like providing the ability to transmit, by television or radio, live performances. (Rarely done.)

There have been some outstanding broadcasts including a performance of the “Messiah” done with the Buffalo Philharmonic and broadcast on PBS in 1976.

The sound systems for the halls were done by Charley Blohm who made them dual. (One can be operated by an idiot, the other by a professional.) Charley had a minor run-in with Oscar Lanford over the speaker placement in King. Oscar made Charley put the speaker in a cage and paint it white. (As to the Marvel stage, covered with a soft wood so that scenery could be fastened, a tech director painted it black and was told to take it up – it takes awhile to get to use a new building.)

The King organ was another Old Main transplant but it was greatly changed from its original home.

For a time King was also used for graduation ceremonies with an overflow crowd seated in Marvel – or even at a local bar since it was transmitted by television. Commencement speakers included Ted Koppel and Kurt Vonnegut whose address later was published as “Speech at Fredonia.”

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.