Student performers call Platt home

comedy and tragedy masks


There’s an arts club for just about everybody at Penn, from stand-up comedy and youth-focused theater to a jazz ensemble and an all-male, South Asian-inspired dance troupe.

The Platt Student Performing Arts House, opened in 2006, is where all of these groups come together.

Located in the basement of Stouffer Commons at 3702 Spruce St., Platt is the go-to place for student groups who need space to rehearse and connect with other performers.
“The mission was to build community, to provide a home for one of the largest umbrella organizations [on campus],” says Ty Furman, the Platt House director. “It has clearly met a need.”

Practice rooms are usually booked until Platt closes, and these rooms have even been used by a dozen groups that are not part of the Performing Arts Council, the umbrella group that oversees student-run live arts activities. These brightly lit, spacious practice rooms are a far cry from the dark, cramped rehearsal spaces of the past. “It’s a statement that [Penn] cares about the arts,” says Furman.

Platt’s main space is an expansive open room with moveable couches and low-backed chairs, as well as a small floor-level stage with lights and sound ideal for casual performances. The House offers practice rooms for dance, small and large music ensembles and theater groups, and a dedicated area for the Penn Band.

Students can use state-of-the-art equipment, including a bank of computers with set, lighting, sound and music composition software and iPod hook-ups in each rehearsal room.

The House was funded by Penn alums Marc E. Platt C’79 and his wife, Julie Beren Platt C’79. Marc Platt worked as an executive at Orion, TriStar and Universal Pictures before forming his own company and producing “Legally Blonde” and Broadway’s “Wicked.”

Platt House is modeled on other campus hubs, including Kelly Writers House and Civic House, and includes a community service component as well as expanded curricular and College House collaborative activities. It also serves as a home to the Performing Arts Council.

In the summer, Platt hosts a camp run by the Recreation Department of Philadelphia.

“For me, I hated the idea of having this space sit empty [in the summer],” says Furman. “It’s nice to know that it’s used.”

Furman is utilizing the space as a recruiting tool to show prospective students that arts are a priority at Penn, and is encouraging alumni to enjoy and support it, too. An alumni gospel choir will be practicing in Platt before an upcoming Alumni Weekend performance, and another group has approached Furman about holding a late-night cabaret there.

Furman is eager to introduce more students to Platt and the performing arts even before they officially become undergraduates. One way he’s working to cultivate that interest is through a pre-freshman orientation dedicated to the arts.

Held each summer, this program gives the 40 participants a taste of the artistic life by offering master classes in fine arts, theater and music and taking them on tours around the city. “Whenever I can, I make those connections,” Furman says.

Originally published March 26, 2009

Originally published on March 26, 2009