With its debut fast approaching Friday, Union South opens up a slew of opportunities for students on campus. Among them are the numerous arts venues included in the building, which the Cardinal was lucky enough to tour this past week.
Serving as the main activity area of Union South is the Sett, an all-encompassing entertainment space that should be bustling year-round. Named after the proper term for a badger's burrow (and thankfully not called ""the Fun Zone"" as was originally suggested), the Sett will serve as the rec room for campus. Its lower level features a pool hall and bowling alley as well as Union South's climbing wall, but the key attraction of the Sett is its performance stage. While music at Memorial Union is often constrained to der Rathskeller (designed to be a cafeteria) and shows at the old Union South were held at Club 770 (likely designed with no purpose in mind whatsoever), the Sett's main stage is intended first and foremost as a music venue, with space and acoustics designed to accommodate anything from a solo folk singer to the wildest rock ‘n' roll show. The Sett is also much more expansive than either der Rathskeller or Club 770, making for a bigger capacity and added comfort. To top everything off, WUD Music is bringing in Owen Pallett and Breathe Owl Breathe on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to musically baptize the stage.
The Frederic March Play Circle sucks. It is too small, the seating is terrible and the sound system is atrocious. But that is what you get when forced to use a venue originally designed for radio productions as a movie theater. That is the case no longer, as WUD Film is shuttling almost all of their programming off to Union South and its new state-of-the-art cinema, the Marquee. It is specifically designed as a movie theater, which alone makes it a great improvement. But it is also designed with all of the amenities that moviegoers have come accustomed to in the age of the modern multiplex––including stadium seating and cupholders that should save many a Spotted Cow from being spilled in the future. For campus cinephiles, WUD's weekly 35mm and DVD/BluRay screenings at the Marquee will continue to be free admission. The Union has already tested the theater with screenings of visual stunners ""Avatar"" and ""How to Train Your Dragon"" to rave reviews, so the Marquee should be more than capable of providing the sensory overload many blockbusters require. Even though union staffers don't quite know where the line for the theater will go, make sure to get there early for the Marquee's opening weekend of Oscar-nominated films, as its debut is sure to be packed.
In addition to the new opportunities for music and movie programming, the WUD Art Committee gains a new space for display at Union South with Gallery 1308. Named for Union South's address, the new gallery opens up whole new possibilities of visual art for the committee with its sound and video capabilities that allow for projection art, as well as more traditional media such as sculpture and prints. The gallery connects the building's northwest entrance with the wine bar, and while it is not intended to be a hallway, it is constructed to create flow throughout, all the better to show off its exhibits.
Though not specifically tailored to be an entertainment venue, Varsity Hall will get its share of play as the new Union South's largest gathering space. With a capacity of up to 1300 people, Varsity Hall will play host to the Union's largest indoor events, including the facility's kickoff concert from of Montreal. And even though it won't be as musically inclined as the Sett, Varsity Hall does incorporate one added musical touch: A baby grand piano sits in the lounge outside, letting any passing pianist, accomplished or otherwise, drop by for some impromptu tunes.