In early June this year, the roof of the Cellar Theatre collapsed due to heavy rainfall. The Cellar is underneath the Holme Building, and is the traditional home of the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS).
Though there were initial hopes that the Cellar would resume operating at the start of semester two, it is now scheduled to reopen in January.
University of Sydney Union (USU) President Courtney Thompson told Honi that “the Cellar is on track to be restored in time for the Summer Season.”
No specific date has been set for the new theatre to open.
The last major USU construction project — Hermann’s Bar — was delayed for several weeks before opening part-way through this semester.
Keshini de Mel, SUDS President, said that the first show to be staged in the new Cellar has not yet been determined, but indicated that, on the current timeline, the last play to be staged in SUDS’ temporary home in the Holme Common Room will be The Dark Room.
For SUDS, the relocation away from the Cellar has been challenging.
“Repairs in the Cellar took longer than expected and we were never sure when they would be done”, de Mel said. “this meant that shows only ever got two to four weeks’ notice about whether to prepare a show for the Cellar or the Common Room.”
“The C&S office has been very good in giving us stability in difficult circumstances”, de Mel added. “They deserve a medal.”
Thompson similarly thanked SUDS as a whole, and specifically the production teams of plays that have been staged in the Common Room for their flexibility.
For the last several years, the USU has been in a parlous financial state, making either bare profits or deficits.
Fortunately, the cost of repairing the Cellar, which will include a new insulated ceiling to prevent noise leakage from the building above and a more versatile lighting rig, will be borne by the University, according to Thompson.
“It isn’t costing the USU anything as the University is contributing.”
Julie Parsons, community engagement manager for the University’s Campus Infrastructure Services division, told Honi that the refurbishments were being funded by the University’s repairs and maintenance budget. Honi originally speculated that the funds may have been drawn from Student Services and Amenities Fee payments, as other USU construction works have been.
“The University is proud to support and partner with the USU and its members wherever possible to enhance the great work they do in creating the best student experience and University life”, Parsons said.
The University’s repairs to the Cellar are being carried out under its standard arrangement to maintain USU buildings, according to Parsons.
One wonders then, why the handle of the door to the SRC, which is similarly housed on USU property, remains broken.