An ethereal organ score accompanies Father Brendan Flynn as he walks down the aisle toward the stage, whispering greetings to empty seats.
It’s Company Carolina’s first rehearsal of “Doubt: A Parable” in the Historic Playmakers Theatre. The show opens tonight.
Set in 1964 in the fictional St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx, “Doubt” depicts the clash between Sister Aloysius, the conservative school principal, and Flynn, a progressive parish priest whom she suspects of improper relations with one of the male students.
The Historic Playmakers Theatre, which was built in 1851, was originally designed as the University’s library. It has since been converted to host theatrical shows, lectures and concerts.
“It’s probably the best space on campus for this kind of show,” said junior Andrew Jones, director of “Doubt.”
Jones said the company was only able to move to the theater two days prior to opening night due to the high cost of using the facility.
“We started with a small budget and made the best of it,” he said. “Having to rehearse in classrooms becomes a challenge in terms of directing.”
Finding a place to perform has become the main concern for many student theater groups on campus.
“LAB! is allowed to perform their shows in the Center for Dramatic Arts due to their connection to the department, while Company Carolina and Pauper Players are pushed to the peripheral spaces of campus,” Jones said.
The scarcity of campus performance spaces is heightened by the fact that some, such as Historic Playmakers Theatre, close for part of the year and the ones left available are quickly snatched up.
Clare Shaffer, artistic director for Company Carolina, said theater groups lost a venue with last year’s closure of the Cabaret, which was compromised by Union renovations.
Emily Ellis, Pauper Players’ executive director of publicity, said they, too, are looking for solutions to the lack of space.
“Unfortunately, there is not enough funding for a new performance space on campus — even though we desperately need one” she said.
Pauper Players’ solution to the issue was to move to the Carrboro ArtsCenter.
“This has been really beneficial for us,” Ellis said. “It’s a great space which has a reliable staff and also because it has parking, which can be an issue for the spaces on campus.”
Ellis said a Pauper Players’ survey revealed that their audiences are made up primarily of community members and that some UNC students have been dissuaded from attending by the off-campus location.
Shaffer said the recently-renovated Union Auditorium, with its elevated stage, adequate seating, wings and lighting grid, is an ideal performance space.
Shaffer said the auditorium is booked every weekend for Carolina Union Activities Board film screenings.
“It’s a waste of a stage,” she said. “You can screen movies anywhere, but there are only so many spaces that you can perform in.”
Shaffer said she knows of a lot of student performance groups that would like to use the Union Auditorium.
“It’s a tough situation,” she said. “But we learn to adapt.”