Alumni Hall, which was constructed in 1892, is one of the few original buildings still standing from the time this college was founded. The structure is over 110 years old and gives this campus much of its character. Western Maryland College Alumni Hall is one of the only buildings on campus that pays tribute to our school before it became McDaniel College in 2002. The building can be found in the National Historic Register and has a history that has evolved with the college. It not only holds a place in the record books, but also in the hearts of every student who has ever worked inside it.
Alumni Hall is in need of a lot of tender love and care. The roof over the main stage is leaking and is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint. The handicapped elevator is broken half of the time which prohibits those who can access the theatre with ease. The sound systems that the theatre and studio theatre currently have are out dated. There are wires that are not encased which could potentially be hazardous. The studio theatre, which currently has 35 circuits and dimmers, desperately needs to be updated. It has roughly half of what it needs. These are just a few of the major improvements that the theatre could use.
Theater students and anyone who uses the theater on a regular basis have to deal with these issues consistently. They are upset about the condition of the building. Jon Teter, President of Alpha Psi Omega (Theater Honors Society) watched a small piece of plaster fall from the ceiling of the main stage and land on Elizabeth van den Berg’s head. “I went up to the main stage light booth and tried to turn the handle and it came right off in my hand,” said Teter. Solving such problems will begin the process of renovating Alumni Hall.
The chairs in the main stage were replaced within the last five years which is great, but at the same time, it is the only stride that has been made in nearly 30 years. In spite of all the work that the theatre needs, the last renovations were made in 1979, and the theatre is in dire need for more upgrades. Space is another serious issue within the theatre. Classes and productions coincide way too often. If there was a separate space for rehearsals and for class time, it would automatically solve so many conflicts. However, this is not going to happen over night. The changes that the theatre needs are going to have to happen gradually and they will take time.
It has often been questioned why McDaniel doesn’t just demolish the old building and construct a new state of the art facility. Many colleges have new state of the art theatres with the top technology. This would be nice for McDaniel but is not necessary and would also cost more money than improvements. At the same time, Western Maryland Alumni Hall has personality. I know I am not alone in saying that the theatre has become more of a home on this campus to me than my own dorm room. Plus, the students wouldn’t be the only ones affected by a new space. The memories created here and the ghosts who reside within would all be lost. Harvey, the ghost who presides in Alumni Hall, has been a fixture and a legend for years. Ultimately, our college would lose more than it would gain from a new structure. Knocking down our current theatre is just not an option. New theaters these days are incredibly high-tech, but none of them have the grandeur and elegance of Alumni Hall.
Ideally, an extremely successful actor alumnus will donate a huge sum of money for the theater department to allocate as necessary. Until that time comes, work needs to slowly be done to recreate the architectural masterpiece that our theatre once was. The theatre doesn’t need a million dollars up front. Renovations need to start small, enough to make sure the theatre can function properly and then the theater department can start to worry about big things. Alumni Hall can be magnificent again, but only if everyone works together to make it happen.