Tucked into the heart of campus, across from Fisher Hassenfeld College House, there’s a beloved space for members of Penn’s performing arts community to express themselves and be together.
The Platt Student Performing Arts House has been serving students since the early aughts by providing critical rehearsal and performance space for dance, music, comedy, spoken word, and other artistic endeavors. In addition to Platt House, the PAC Shop, located at 41st and Walnut, is where students collaborate to create vibrant scenery, props, and costumes for their performances.
“Penn is filled with so many talented performers who are also academically passionate,” says Aidan Moon, C’24, a member of the Performing Arts Council (PAC). “Creating amazing shows is a beautiful process.”
The Platt House was established thanks to a generous founding gift from Christopher Mario, C’85. Mario wanted to fund a space for the Penn Band, and his gift was intended to inspire support from other donors. Soon after, a naming gift from Julie Beren Platt, C’79, PAR’05, PAR’08, PAR’12, PAR’21, and Marc Platt, C’79, PAR’05, PAR’08, PAR’12, PAR’21 formally established the Platt Performing Arts House. “Julie and Marc Platt are more than just donors. They are an engaged and caring part of our community, and it is an honor to help create and maintain their vision for a warm and supportive home for Penn’s student performers,” says Laurie McCall, the Platt House Director. “Similar to the Platts’ legacy, Mario is an avid supporter of the Penn Band who cares deeply about the wellbeing of the extended Penn Band family. We are indebted to donors like Chris Mario and the Platt family.”
The Platts support many areas across campus, but the performing arts hold a special place in their hearts. “Marc cut his teeth at Penn in the performing arts,” says Julie, who is currently the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees and a member of the Penn Live Arts Board of Advisors. “I enjoyed performing as a student, and several of our children have gone on to have engaged lives in the industry. Supporting this part of Penn is an act of gratitude—for our involvement—and for the experiences that were extended to our children,” she continues.
At Platt House, something is always happening. It’s a place where supportive conversations flow freely between rehearsals, meetings, and shows. And it’s very popular—20% of Penn undergraduates participate in the University’s performance art offerings. Each year, the Student Performing Arts Night (SPAN) brings together over 50 student groups and hundreds of Penn performers for a showcase ahead of the fall audition season. This year, SPAN will be held on August 31 in the Zellerbach Theatre; alumni and Penn friends are welcome to attend.
In 2022-23, Platt House hosted over 18,125 hours of rehearsals and 24 events in the Lounge and Cabaret Stage. Managing the day-to-day operations at Platt House is a big job. McCall’s team includes two Penn alumni: Megan Edelman, C’11, LPS’22, Associate Director, Sara Outing, C’13, Program Coordinator, as well as Amanda Labonte, Technical Advisor in the PAC Shop, and part-time support staff. “Platt House represents so many things,” says Edelman. “For students, it’s where they might find their friends, their community, their voice. It can be a place to be brave and experiment, to try something new, or to fail and learn from that.” Edelman leads a short tour of the Platt House space in this video.
Providing resources to Penn’s growing performing arts community at Platt House and beyond is an ongoing priority. “The students and our team at Platt House make it easy to love my job,” says Outing. “Our students are talented, and they lift each other up, work through issues, and advocate for one another and their craft.”
In addition to the Platts’ founding gift, ongoing support has funded key initiatives like performance funds, equipment including pianos and microphones, and “After School Arts at Penn”, a program that supports about 40 school-age children each year. The Platt House team also oversees a community ticketing initiative that provides complimentary tickets for student performances to Penn undergraduates, local kids, and community members.
Looking ahead, Penn recently announced a plan to build a $75 million Student Performing Arts Center that will provide even more space and resources for the performing arts community.