For non-theater students, the Edith Mortenson Center theater is one area of campus that tends to remain a mystery to most during their years at Augustana. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. People have different interests. But as someone who, depending on the week, spends 20 plus hours there, the heat is a problem.
I get it. It’s an old building and wasn’t originally designed to be a theater anyway. It used to be a gym before it was repurposed in the early 2000s. Even so, it is dangerously warm, especially considering the level of activity that theater entails.
Theaters generally have a problem with heat on stage because of the high-powered lights that end up being concentrated in that one area. Speaking from experience, it can be miserable, but it’s more or less manageable, or at least it’s bearable long enough to get offstage where it’s cooler. The problem with the EMC is that offstage can be just as warm as on. It doesn’t matter what season it is, it’s always warm in the theater. The general wish for the air conditioning to be turned on, even in the middle of South Dakota winters is telling enough.
Theater faculty have requested that the problem be fixed, but it’s still miserably warm, and worse during show weeks when we’re using the stage lights with greater regularity. Even the massive shop fan can only do so much to combat the heat.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplaces with temperatures over 70 degrees “may have a heat hazard present.” Heat stress and heat exhaustion can occur after spending a lot of time in such a warm environment, especially when combined with strenuous work or exercise, both of which can be necessary to the production process. The average temperature in the EMC is definitely above that 70 degree mark and is potentially dangerous.
If it’s miserable for us, it is just as miserable for our audiences. Given that the very core of what we do is meant to be presented to an audience, this is especially frustrating because it’s hard to draw an audience if the entire time, they’re focused on how stuffy it is in the room.
Don’t get me wrong, getting to be a part of the theater is still incredibly rewarding. It would just be a lot more comfortable, and safer for everyone, if we didn’t have to deal with the heat on top of our other responsibilities.