Castleton University: Fine Arts Center

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DESCRIPTION

The Castleton University Fine Arts Center is described as being “The creative epicenter of Castleton; offering versatile space for all the creative arts on the Castleton Campus. The Art Department shares this dynamic space with the Theater Department as well as the Music Department. Within these areas multiple disciplines seamlessly interact every day. On any given day you can see “a dancer practicing, hear the music created by student musicians, or the chiseling of a beginning sculpture class.” (From Castleton University website).

Entering the lobby of the Fine Arts Center, the visitor can enjoy The Christine Price Gallery, that showcases local and regional artists throughout the year.

Whoever designed this building did a great job envisioning how all the creative arts could coexist without having issues with each other. The Fine Art Center’s theater facilities, and support areas of learning are well placed on both levels of this thoughtfully designed structure. The following spaces can be found on Level One and the Lower Level of The Fine Arts Center.

Casella Theater • Black Box Theater • Performance Studio • Scenic Studio • Design Studio • Costume Shop • Costume Collection • Green Room

Theater Art Productions in Casella and the Black Box Theaters allow students to grow in their development of the fine art of their choice in a public forum.

Part of the Fine Art Center’s Theatre Art Productions mission statement further states; “Students also will learn and be able to apply the knowledge internalized to discuss and analyze productions, develop and exhibit a high degree of competency in one or more areas of theatrical production, and learn how to appropriately use materials to achieve the desired effects.”

 

Level One:

THE CASELLA THEATER – The John and Susan Casella Theater, “which pulls in both regional and international performances for the enjoyment and enrichment of students and the greater community,” is the largest main performance space on the first floor of the Fine Arts Center. It is a 484-seat proscenium style theater. All Theater Arts main stage productions are performed on the Casella stage.

Around this main theater are other performance spaces. The Black Box Theater is a small, “intimate performance space,” which seats up to sixty audience members. Its primary purpose is dedicated to student production and studio work. The Black Box Theater hosts small ensembles, plays, and rehearsals, and is equipped with a lighting and sound control booth, access to the main stage, and multiple movable risers. Music students can use this space “to collaborate with other arts disciplines to perform small plays and productions.”

The Scenic Studio is located at the back of the Fine Arts Center, making it readily available to the Casella stage. It has a roomy 1,280 square feet of “build space.” Students here learn the various tools and practices used in “the construction, painting, and mounting of scenic elements for the stage. Classes taught here include Stagecraft, Scenic Painting, and Stage Rigging and Metalwork.

 

Lower Level of the Fine Arts Center:

The Green Room is located on the lower level of the Fine Arts Center, directly under the Casella Theater stage. Because of its convenient placement, performers in various stage productions can wait here until they go on stage to act or perform. Performers can also change into their costumes or presentation clothes, using the men’s and women’s dressing rooms in the back of the Green Room.

The Green Room is a flexible space that can also be used for other purposes; as the conference room for production meetings and student organizations, as a rehearsal space and even as a student lounge. Versatility indeed!

The Performance Studio is located on the lower level of the Fine Arts Center, and is a space shared by all the fine arts performance-based instruction teams. It is ideal for classes such as acting, directing, and dance. It also serves as the rehearsal studio for main stage productions.

The Design Studio is located in Room 120 where the majority of the Theater Arts design courses are taught, complete with ten drafting stations and a workroom with cutting tables and a supply cabinet. In the Design Studio, “students develop skills in the various areas of theatrical design such as scene design, costume design, and lighting design. Here they can hone their craft by drafting plots, sketching design concepts, producing renderings, and building models.”

The Costume Shop is right across the hall from the Performance Studio. Students work with faculty to “put together, alter, dye, and prepare the costumes for department productions. Students also work with hair, wigs, makeup, and special effects makeup.”

 

HISTORY

In 1962, Castleton became a state college and a member of the newly formed Vermont State Colleges, which really boosted Castleton State College’s growth during the 1960s, and allowed it to offer more and more in the way of $75 million in infrastructure improvements, increasing research opportunities for both staff and students, growth in athletics and the arts, which all added up to a “decade of unprecedented growth and improvements.”

As a result, new areas of study were offered and the college grew further in stature and was eventually considered to be on a university level. In 2015, “the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees unanimously approved modernizing Castleton’s name to Castleton University.”

Probably part of that 75 million dollars was spent in building a new Fine Arts Center, that would include large and small theatre spaces, including space for classes and hands-on learning. I theorize this fine structure was in fact a driving factor that brought students who were interested in the arts to Castleton. Drawing, painting and ceramics, music performance, dance performance, and a large theatre for plays and performances must of been irresistible for many students.

Renovations and remodeling continued through the eras to keep facilities up to date and create the spaces needed for all the fine arts. Both the Black Box Theater and a Design Studio came into being in 2012, thanks to a brilliant new staff addition, Steven Gross, who brought a new creative energy to the Fine Arts Program.

Steven Gross began to work at Castleton University as the head of the Technical Theater and Design Program in the fall of 2007. He is the Technical Director for all Theater Arts productions, as well as being the resident Scenic and Lighting Designer and also mentors student designers.

 

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

Sometimes spirits bond with objects and furniture that they loved while alive.

Custer House, ND (Because great care was taken to replicate the house and its furnishings, plus adding the personal treasures of the Custer family, spirits who reside here are in heaven!).

Ashton Villa Mansion, TX (Her hand fans are still very important to this spirit).

Buffalo Bill Ranch, NE (Looking at all his momentos gives this spirit some peace in his afterlife).

The Museum of Shadows, NE (On display are spirit-attached items).

The John M. Browning Firearms Museum, UT (Spirits like to be near their old firearms).

Castleton University Fine Arts Center, VT (The Furniture Closet located at the back of the Green Room seems to inspire a lot of activity; probably because of what is kept there).

 

Sometimes the building that was originally on a piece of land had spirits attached to it. When it was torn down, the, spirits simply bonded to the land, and moved into any new building that is built on their land.

Whaley House, CA (Justice by sanctioned hanging happened on this property).

National Aviary, PA (Spirit prisoners and admirers come for free).

Capitol Records Building, TN (Two elderly spirit ladies miss their old, demolished house).

Castleton University Fine Arts Center, VT (A spirit may have been connected to a former structure that stood here before The Fine Arts Center, may have moved inside. Or, this spirit could be attached to the UVM land. A clue to this spirit’s earthly time period is the top hat and suit he loves to wear; late 19th-early 20th Century dress clothes).

 

Spirits that have stayed or visit in their favorite structure of this world, sometimes are drawn to other buildings that are also of interest to them; Sports, places of spiritual comfort, and those places that offer enjoyment of the arts..

Pioneer Historic Village Church, AZ (Spirits who came with their favorite structure here like to visit other buildings in the village).

Elsinore Theater, OR (Attracts both the polite spirits and even a rude one).

Saint Louis Cathedral, LA (This impressive church still is a comfort for the restless in pain).

Castleton University Fine Arts Center, VT (Apparently, the strong male presence in the Black Box Theater loves stage productions).

 

Spirits have the same personalities that they did while alive: Passing into the afterlife doesn’t give them any new positive or negative personality traits and doesn’t take away any aspects of their personalities.

Landmark Center, MN (A male spirit who was found guilty at his trial, killed himself before being taken to prison. He still loves the ladies and can be menacing).

Lucky’s Tavern, FL (A volunteer spectral manager is roughly unforgiving).

Eldridge Hotel, KS (A spirit owner is helpful, friendly and watchful).

Castleton University Fine Arts Center (Perhaps an unseen presence has high standards of behavior for the living pertaining to his own personal needs).

 

Spirits who were stopped from doing what they yearned to do from their life circumstances and/or sudden death, sometimes try to fulfill their dreams as spirits.

The Hollywood Pantages Theatre, CA (A spirit likes to sing along).

The Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA (A spirit actor yearns to perform).

Liberty Hall Mansion, KY (A female spirit continues to be helpful).

Castleton University Fine Arts Center (The male spirit who enjoys all aspects of the theatre experience may have dreamed of a successful performance career).

 

MANIFESTATIONS

On Stage: I am Here! See Me!

This male spirit makes himself known in the Black Box Theater.

During her first weekend at Castleton, an actress was helping a friend in the Black Box Theater.

She saw a male figure walk down the stairs into the little theater, and assumed it was her friend.

She kept looking at the man and suddenly realized it wasn’t her friend at all; it was a man in a suit and top hat, looking pretty real.

She watched him walk across the stage and into a corner. He stopped and looked at her.

She blinked to adjust her eyes and get a better look, but suddenly, he was gone.

On Stage: Feel and Hear Me!

In another incident, a student was passing by the theater and the doors were open.

She felt as though she was being watched.

She had a feeling as though someone was standing in the middle of the stage looking out through the doors and watching her. Unnerved, she hurried off.

On her way back by, she felt the same thing again and wanted to look but was afraid to for fear she would see someone standing there.

When friends of hers investigated soon afterwards, they walked up the stairs to check but there was no one around.

Male Spirit – A Definite Theatre Enthusiast

His figure is always seen wearing a top hat and coat tails; thus always ready to see theatrical efforts.

His shadow was seen in the back of the Black Box Theatre during a student performance:

During the performance of one of the student-directed Black Box Theatre shows, a female actress was sitting stage left by the door waiting for her entrance, when she felt there was something in the back of the house.

In the backstage darkness, there was just a sliver of light coming from the cracks in some doors nearby.

Suddenly, she saw a shadow figure in the back of the house and she immediately was overwhelmed with a sense of fear.

Unseen Presences in the Green Room

These unseen presences/shadow people are thought to be spirits attached to items kept in this closet; including the Spirit with Top Hat who may be connected to some item or items.

A female drama student was in the Green Room at around 2 a.m. working on a project with a friend.

Throughout the night they kept hearing noises and seeing shadows moving around the room.

All of the activity was centered around the furniture closet in the back corner when without warning, she saw a shadow move from the closet into the women’s dressing room and then vanish.

Unknown Presences: Thespians?

Many students who were working on their projects at night in the locked FAC building would hear someone walking across the Casella Theatre stage just above the Green room.

When they walked up the stairs to check it out they found that there was no one around.

Perhaps these spirits were thespians while alive, and just wanted to remember their past performances on the big stage.

Green Room: It’s Me Too!

One of these late night students, a young woman, suddenly got overwhelmed with chills; the well-dressed spirit’s calling card.

She felt drawn to keep looking over her shoulder to the back corner the room where the furniture closet was located.

She states, “I had this overwhelming feeling that someone was there watching us, but every time I looked over, there was no one there.”

Don’t Provoke, Or Else

After a rehearsal for “Catch Me If You Can,” a young actress was talking to some of her fellow cast members about the well-dressed spirit man with a top hat; the spirit person that the rest knew nothing about.

As soon as the actress started sharing what she knew about him, she got chills that ran through her entire body; you-know-who’s calling card.

In that moment, she knew he was there, but she couldn’t tell his exact location.

It felt as though she was “enveloped in his energy.” No matter where she turned or walked it felt like he was coming at her from every direction.

She told her friends, “We have to leave!”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she was rushing for the door. As soon as she stepped out into the lobby, it felt as though 30 pounds had been lifted off her chest.

STILL HAUNTED?

Most Probably So!

Unknown spirits are probably attached to the stuff stored in the furniture closet located in the back of the Green Room. Most of it must be theater-oriented. Some of these spirits, unseen and shy, were surely thespians in life, and enjoy being on the main Casella Theatre stage at night when the living are not there.

Apparently, the strongest spirit here is a well dressed male spirit, complete with a top hat. He has made himself at home here. He also may be attached to something in the Green Room’s furniture closet, or possibly a structure that once stood here.

He may have always yearned to be a thespian and is trying to do so now as a spirit. Or, he was a minor actor and was disappointed with his career while alive. Or perhaps he died too soon before he could even try acting.

This strong spirit is not afraid to let it be known that he is watching all the elements that make up a theatrical performance today. Many people who have had classes, worked on projects, performed and rehearsed here have encountered the well-dressed spirit in the top hat, seen or unseen, and have heard and felt him.

He behaves like an actor; mostly likes to be noticed, and enjoys being on stage as well.

He definitely is not afraid to show his displeasure if provoked, even if it was unintentional. Paranormal investigators would probably aggravate him, so it is wise not to let ghost hunters inside.

Except for published students’ experiences, this is probably why I haven’t found any published hard evidence of the paranormal activity that has been experienced in The Fine Arts Center. The Old Chapel building is the most investigated structure at Castleton University, because those spirits are friendly and don’t mind the attention.

As it is now, folks in The Fine Arts Center building accept him as a spirit who loves the Black Box Theater, yearns to perform, and probably would’ve been a student or supporter if they had this Fine Arts Center during his lifetime.

 

LOCATION

45 Alumni Dr,
Castleton, VT 05735

Castleton University:Fine Arts Center is located in the older section of Castleton University, just to the left of the Old Chapel; and across from Woodruff Hall and Leavenworth Hall, probably built where an old school building once stood.

 

SOURCES INCLUDE

  • castleton.edu website – Explore our Theater Facilities: Theatre Degree
  • castletonspartan website – “The Ghostly Man in the FAC,” – April 2, 2019 8:21 pm by Alex Wetherby
  • castletonspartan website.- “Annual ghost stories haunt the FAC.” –
    November 5, 2014, 7:38 am by Callie Ginter

 

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