A few weekends ago Mikey, Julianne, and I took advantage of the Indian summer and traveled across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to our alma mater, Washington College. These trips, a staple of my first three years out of college, are becoming rarer now. But I still get a feeling of warm familiarity as soon as I’m back on campus. My first stop is usually Tawes Theatre, in the old Gibson Fine Arts Building. As a drama major, I spent approximately 85 percent of my waking hours in that place.
It wasn’t just a performance space, or even a rehearsal space. It was where I would visit with the professors in their offices, catch up with my friends in those precious few free moments in the morning, and do my laundry to save a couple bucks. Above all, it was a place for celebration — the simple euphoria of a just-completed show, the dull roar of a cast party in the dimly lit basement, the revelry of the end-of-year barbecue out in front of the building.
This time, though, Tawes was off-limits.
The building is undergoing a long-awaited overhaul. The entire perimeter is fenced off, but we were able to peek over and through to see the damage. I’d known for almost two years that they would eventually start tearing it apart, but there was no way to really prepare myself.
Entire portions of the structure have been knocked down, leaving big empty gaps that let me see straight through to the parking lot on the other side. Large piles of rubble were strewn about, heaps of brick and steel. Where the main entrance and lobby stood, there was a hole — a nothingness. The stage where I performed for four years, and where I watched my directing thesis come to life, was a dark pit, with a crane sitting in the depression.
I know this change will ultimately be for the better. If the finished product at all resembles the illustrated plans, it will be a beautiful and spacious facility, one truly worthy of the efforts of the students who will call it home.
Until that day, though, there will be something missing in my world.