Curtain Call Cafe must live on

Photo courtesy of Jenna Craig.

What used to be a lively hub for students is now simply a shortcut that gives students a break from the cold Mahwah winds on their daily hike from the commuter lot. 

My favorite building has changed. Due to the closure of the Curtain Call Cafe, the Berrie Center feels desolate unless there is an event going on or a class about to start. 

As a fifth-year student, Curtain Call used to be my go-to spot on campus, as it was for most Contemporary Arts students. It was the perfect place to make friends within my major. The closely arranged table and chairs allowed for conversations between students to blend seamlessly. When I was a freshman, I’d sit near my classmates and new peers, and soon enough, I would be invited into their conversations and feel part of their community.

Commuters would loiter there all day, and between classes you could always find someone rushing to finish a last-minute assignment. Students would bring back takeout containers from the dining hall just so they could enjoy dinner with all their friends. The student aides in the scene shop would always hang out in the cafe on their breaks. For theater students who practically live in the Berrie Center, it was a cozy home away from home. 

If you wanted to see a friendly face, Curtain Call was the place.

It was open just in time to grab your coffee before your first class of the day and late enough to grab a snack before rehearsals. At 6 p.m. the lights would go out and the workers would pull down the gate to lock up the space. When the pandemic hit, the gate was unfortunately pulled down indefinitely. 

I am thankful I had five and a half semesters to enjoy Curtain Call before it was gone. I can’t help but pity the underclassmen who never got to experience the comfort and community it provided. 

The space remains closed and the Starbucks that was once there has been moved into the Learning Commons, now renamed Common Grounds, with a “Welcome to Curtain Call Cafe” ticker still gliding across the cash register screen that shows you your total. For theater students, this reminder stings.

Up until last semester, we all had a hard time getting to know each other. With most of my friends graduating last year and being mostly done with my theater classes, I felt isolated from other theater students. In a usual year with Curtain Call open, I’d see them all on a regular basis instead of just passing by them in a hallway. Working on productions certainly helped, but I really miss how the casual, low-pressure atmosphere of Curtain Call allowed for easy socialization. 

One of my favorite Curtain Call memories was in 2019 when the game Wordscapes took the theater students by storm. For a solid couple of weeks, I would walk in and see Wordscapes being played at nearly every table, with one person holding their phone and three others standing over their shoulder helping them complete the board. Those extra sets of eyes would meander from table to table helping everyone out. I was one of them. 

Between myself and other upperclassmen, younger students have heard stories about Curtain Call’s impact on the Ramapo arts community, so much so that they yearn for it the same way we do.

Our hope is that the space will be eventually opened up for use as a student lounge. The Berrie Center couches don’t foster that same community feeling, not to mention there are no nearby outlets to sit there and do work. 

One day this semester, I walked down the Berrie Center steps to see about 10 theater students all gathered by the couches. It was lively and inviting. It was the first time since before the pandemic that I saw a group of theater kids simply hanging out in one spot. Not one specific friend group, not one specific class. Just a perfect little array of my peers. It only lasted for around 15 minutes, but it made me hopeful that if Curtain Call becomes a lounge, underclassmen and future students will eventually make it their home once more.