Co-directors Sarah Neville and Jennifer Schlueter met at the Ohio State University in 2014, and immediately connected through their shared passion for enabling student-led experiments in performance. Neville is the founder and creative director of Lord Denney’s Players; Schlueter was the founder and producer of The Lab Series. Both organizations regularly run up against problems of on-campus space: Ohio State is extremely limited in performance spaces for student-centered work. Our research with students requires adequate, technically useful performance venues that seat up to 200 people, spaces that are flexible and productive for creative experiments, and that are accessible for curricular and extracurricular needs across campus. At present, OSU is unable to meet these needs, and we’ve sought performance space throughout the city of Columbus.
But therein lies the rub: as we sought rental space for our performances, we realized that the city of Columbus and its surrounding environs are equally lacking in smaller performance venues. Although Columbus boasts several historic, large-scale spaces that seat in the thousands (often owned and run by CAPA), the city presently lacks what’s commonly known as “storefront” or “black box” spaces that seat about 100 people. These are traditionally spaces that foster experiment, nurture outsider voices, and warmly convene smaller segments of audiences in cities like Chicago, D.C., and Philadelphia. These are the venues that the Columbus performing arts community desperately needs in order to thrive.
We believe that the challenges to students, teachers, and researchers presented by lack of adequate performance (and rehearsal) space on the Ohio State University campus is part of a larger trend in central Ohio. But we believe this deficit of storefront performance space is solvable.
The first task in the Pith and Marrow project is to demonstrate the problem. Our first business, therefore, is to QUANTIFY the performance spaces currently available (as of 2019) in Columbus.
QUANTIFICATION: Assisted by graduate students in the Glenn College of Public Affairs, Pith and Marrow will coalesce information on every rentable performance and rehearsal venue in the Columbus area. Over time, we will map this space data alongside data from comparable cities to determine the extent to which Columbus is served (or underserved) by the venues publicly available for rent. As we produce this data, we will make it available on this website so that all performing artists in Columbus have access to the information we’ve gathered.
The second task in the Pith and Marrow project is to CONNECT Columbus’s theatre and performance companies to discuss the problem and share resources.
CONNECTION: Pith and Marrow will host a series of meetings and gatherings of local theatre and performance professionals to discuss challenges in locating and funding rehearsal and performance spaces in the city of Columbus. Further, by building a “season” of work from participating performance groups, Pith and Marrow will encourage audiences to diversify their experiences of Columbus theatre. As part of each performance we feature, Pith and Marrow will gather additional qualitative data on audience experiences so that we can make a case for the kinds of spaces audiences want while also making a case for the kinds of spaces performing artists need.
In upcoming years, we will use this quantifying and connecting work to advocate for the flexible, small-scale, accessible performing arts venues that Columbus deserves.