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Students take the stage at Harry T. Wilks Theater

By Alison Block
On February 18, 2014

Like the rest of Armstrong Student Center (ASC), the brand new, state-of-the-art theater was designed with Miami students in mind. The 500-seat theater is primarily for any student organization to rent out either for their own use or for a group they are bringing to campus. What's special about Wilks is that student organizations come first.

According to Katie Wilson, director of the Armstrong Center, this new space can be booked by an official Miami student organization before any other type of group, in contrast to Hall Auditorium, where the university musical ensembles and student groups compete for time slots.

Events are already lining up in Wilks Theater Alpha Phi Alpha will be hosting the Black and Gold Scholarship Beauty Pageant 7 p.m. March 1. In April, the Vision Dance Company will be gracing Wilks with a performance.

Miami Activities and Programming (MAP) Vice President and senior Bill Brady said he is enthusiastic about the many possible uses for the new space. He acknowledged the possibility of hosting another Dueling Pianos event, such as the one they organized opening week, and inviting lecturers to speak in the theater. Ex-Playboy Playmate and HIV actitivst Rebekka Armstrong and advice columnist Harlan Cohen are examples of the type of speaker they might bring to campus, Brady said. Brady also said MAP is considering another poetry slam event called Closing the Show, which would be "mainly students" but would include professional poets as well.

MAP definitely "wants to highlight Armstrong" with their events, Brady said, which will mainly take place in the theater on the weekends and late nights.

Wilson made it clear that student organizations are given first priority for scheduling events in Wilks Theater, but if there is an empty time slot in the following thirty days, it becomes fair game to non-student groups.

Bill Murray, chair of the Department of Music, said he sees this as an exciting new opportunity.

According to Murray, the Music Department is "really interested and curious to see how things work out" at Armstrong, noting there are medium-sized choral groups, the jazz ensemble and some others that will fit in Wilks nicely.

However, he admitted he and much of the Music Department faculty have not had much of a chance to inspect the stage and backstage areas as of yet.

In addition to the theater, Murray said the students of the Music Department will be utilizing the Shade Family Room to spread the arts through the Brown Bag Concert Series starting Feb. 19.

Through this series, music majors will display their talents in the Family Room from noon to 12:45 p.m. every Wednesday until April.

Murray said this series "will be managed essentially by [the Music Department's] own students."

The aesthetics of Wilks are also exciting, according to Murray. The effort that has clearly gone into Wilks exemplifies just how important student organizations are to Miami. he said.

The white walls, decorated with acoustical wall panels to absorb extraneous sounds blend with the deep red chairs.

The room bursts with Miami energy, a fitting tribute for a place dedicated completely to students' expression.

"[Wilks is] a beautiful space," Murray said. "I think [it's] the most beautiful performing space on the campus right now, and it's a very impressive space."

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