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Lovell Reimagined: A New Act for Hopkins Drama

Evie Doolittle ’23 Co-Lead News Editor, Rose Robertson ’24 Arts Editor
Members of the Hopkins Arts Department, along with other members of the faculty and trustee committees, have been working towards renovating Lovell for decades.
Their plans are finally coming to fruition, with the project expected to break ground in the spring of 2023 and completion anticipated in the fall of 2024.

The new building will rest on the current footprint of Lovell but will extend past its current dimensions. Director of Communications Dan Altano detailed, “In fulfillment of a major part of Hopkins’ 2019 Campus Master Plan, the new Academic and Performing Arts Center will be a 26,000 sq. ft. adaptive reuse and expansion of Lovell Hall.” The architecture firm responsible for the project, the SLAM Collaborative, also designed the Malone Science Center, Heath Commons, Calarco Library, and Thompson Hall, “so they have a long relationship with Hopkins,” said Altano.

Altano added that the new building, with the trappings of an upgraded model, will feature “a 350-seat performance hall, including a full orchestra pit and significantly enhanced acoustics, lighting, and climate control together with back-of-house functions such as costume and set design, green room, and storage.” Altano also stated that the design of the building will aesthetically match the existing buildings on campus while introducing an up-to-date, arts-friendly atmosphere: “The exterior will blend nicely with the Georgian Revival style prominent on Hopkins’ campus. The interior will feature lots of natural light, wood tones, art galleries, and casual space for sitting and congregating.” According to Drama teacher Hope Hartup, “Internally, the idea is to make it more modern-looking with cleaner lines, opening up ceilings so we see the I-beams and wood so that there’s a bit of a statement piece, so that when you come in you know you’re coming into a special space.” Mike Calderone, another Drama teacher, said, “It's going to be an impressive welcome to everyone who comes into the Knollwood parking lot with an imposing lighthouse-like tower on one corner.” To accompany Hopkins Drama Associations' productions, the renovation plan should result in a definite “‘wow’ factor,” according to Calderone.

The project will incorporate many sustainable changes to Lovell’s infrastructure. Altano explained, “[the building will have] environmentally conscious carpeting, flooring, paint and wall materials, HVAC and plumbing systems…[and] energy-efficient air conditioning.” In addition, the structure of the building will also allow for future use of solar panels and, to mitigate storm run-off and irrigation, natural rain gardens and local plant species will be introduced. For a campus with an increasing amount of electric vehicles, there will also be two new charging stations in Knollwood Parking Lot.

According to Hartup, the first discussions of a renovated Lovell began in 1990, when early designs placed a new theater in the building that now houses the squash courts. In fact, the current design plan and renovation committee is the third one that Hartup and Calderone have been on. Calderone expressed his excitement about the developments, “When I was hired 17 years ago, Thompson was on the brink of being built. I asked where the new theater was and was told, ‘Well, there’s an amphitheater.’ We made that little outdoor theater work wonders for us, but this is the big deal I’ve been waiting for. Hope [Hartup] has been waiting even longer than me!” Calderone attributed the delay to “various reasons largely to do with money needed in other areas [of the Hopkins budget],” allowing time for the building plans to evolve. Hartup said, “the [design] process has been very organic.… I’ve been through a lot of various iterations.”
“The Board of Trustees is determined this time around to make it happen,” Calderone stated.

This new building also will address a long-standing issue among Hopkins faculty: a lack of classroom space. Hartup explained, “I think the other thing that has been really important and a key driving force is the need for more classroom space.” Altano echoed this idea, “The School has long needed a bigger facility for its excellent performing arts program, as well as additional classroom space (consider that the original Lovell building was constructed in 1959 when the student body was 304, and the seating capacity is just 135; today, we have 712 students).” Altano shared that the new building will include a double classroom connected by a moveable separation to provide rehearsal space that can mimic the size of a stage, as well as 10 additional multi-purpose rooms. Altano described the benefits of this expansion, “The additional classrooms—and the spaces they will free up elsewhere on campus—allow us to enhance other programs on campus that are severely limited in space, e.g., HARPS, Robotics, and others.” 

The plans include a rehearsal space that can mimic the size of a stage, as well as ten additional multi-purpose rooms. Altano described the benefits of this expansion, “The additional classrooms—and the spaces they will free up elsewhere on campus—allow us to enhance other programs on campus that are severely limited in space, e.g., HARPS, Robotics, and others.” 

With the installation of  a brand new LED-based lighting system, tension grid, and a new state-of-the-art sound system, the drama teachers hope to foster students’ interest in theater tech. Hartup commented, “It looks like our whole lighting set-up will be with a tension grid, which now makes it possible to actually handle the lighting instruments. And what we’re really hopeful for is that by having this wonderful facility, finally, our theater tech program can really take off, because we know that there’s a lot of interest and excitement for theater tech.” Calderone echoed Hartup’s enthusiasm for the improvements, “Students and faculty will be able to hang and adjust lights without going up on ladders or the Genie Lift because you can walk on the tension grid! No more fear of falling off ladders or dropping huge stage lights. LED lights have a cooler temperature, save lots of money on energy costs, and can change colors without having to physically change the little sheets of plastic called gels.” 

The building will facilitate more opportunities for students to tackle the different aspects of a production. Hartup said, “We now will have a scene shop, where we can build our set and do our sceneries not on the stage, so you’re not having to have rehearsal in the middle of all this construction.”

The new space will help showcase the professionalism and talent within HDA. Calderone explained, “The hope is that the space will make producing HDA shows easier and cleaner.” However, student productions will have to adapt for the renovation. Julia Murphy ‘23, Co-Head of HDA explained, “Adapting for things like the banquet will probably happen soon after Lovell goes off-limits, because we will need to get a sense of HDA’s new flow in our rehearsal spaces… HDA is pretty resilient, so a change of scenery won’t stop our work or friendships.” Murphy continued, “But even though it will be strange not to have a home base, we’re all hopeful that it will make HDA more open and visible around campus, since there will be no Lovell to default to.”

Abigail Murphy ‘23, Co-Head of HDA, felt that the loss of the familiar Lovell would be bittersweet: “In theater, everyone is constantly saying goodbye to shows,” she continued, “It’s like a tradition…I’m just overjoyed the theater program is finally getting the resources and space to showcase the skill and work that goes into each production.” Despite the temporary displacement caused by the construction period, Abigail Murphy asserted that “HDA is not slowing down in any way…the location will change, but the sentiment and camaraderie in HDA will stay the same.”
 
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