Exploring EMPAC

EMPAC has been open to the public this semester. In early November, Editor in Chief Alexander Orr ’25 and I met with some of the curators and administration of EMPAC. I was curious about EMPAC, and as a sophomore, I haven’t experienced much of what EMPAC has to offer. We sat down and learned a lot from Operations Manager John Cook, Associate Director Vic Brooks, Senior Curator for Theatre and Dance Ashley Ferro-Murray, and Manager of Communications and Grants Kathryn TeBordo.

One of the biggest things I wanted to know was what areas of EMPAC are open for students to walk in and hang out. I had heard that EMPAC was a popular study spot before COVID-19, but I was always unsure where to go. The building is open 9 am to 5 pm weekdays and 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday. In addition to Evelyn’s Cafe and the Mezzanine, lobbies on the fifth and sixth floor have tables for students to study at and are always quiet. The silence in EMPAC is one of its defining characteristics. Cook told us that he often has people walk in and assume that nothing is happening because of how quiet the building is. He explained that all the rooms have sound insulation to allow uninterrupted simultaneous use of all the venues.

Speaking of, EMPAC has more venues than most people probably think. Most people know about the concert hall, but EMPAC also has a theater and Studios 1, 2, and Beta. Studio Beta can be requested through the Student Union and is a readily accessible space for clubs and activities. The other venues can be requested through EMPAC's venue request form.

If you’d like a tour of these spaces, various EMPAC admin and curators offer tours with their own unique insights on the venues and relevant performances.

We asked about how students can get involved at EMPAC, and there are plenty of opportunities. EMPAC is one of the largest student employers on campus, hiring for the production teams that run shows, ushers, and curatorial and communications teams. Additionally, Brooks and Ferro-Murray described EMPAC as a research facility. Many performances use technology created or improved at EMPAC such as Wave Field Synthesis. EMPAC is also home to the Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory, a joint research venture with Rensselaer and IBM.

Another big difference this semester is the frequency of events at EMPAC. There have been performances about once a week all semester from a wide range of artists. You can see the season schedule here. Through the EMPAC+ program, all programs are free for students—just scan your ID when you walk in. If you miss an event or would like to view shows from years past, there are Archive Chairs on the sixth floor and seventh floor. These comfy, blue wingback armchairs have video screen attachments that swivel out and invite students and visitors to relax and stay awhile for inspiration from EMPAC’s extensive video archive.

EMPAC has more to offer than many know. The building is a cool place to study, and my fellow Polytechnic writers can attest to the great entertainment EMPAC shows bring. As a freshman last year, I was a little intimidated walking into EMPAC to study or even going to their events; however, after touring the building and meeting the friendly staff, I would highly recommend checking it out for yourself.