On the Ground: Taking the Stage at WPAC
At first glance, York College of Pennsylvania may look like a typical campus in a typical college town—but look a little closer, and you’ll discover a community full of hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems. In our On the Ground series, we explore some of YCP’s most beloved places and spaces with help from our own Spartan students.
To Theatre students, “all the world is a stage”—or at least the majority of their time on campus takes place near a stage. Sophomore Theatre major Acell Spencer spends much of his time in the Waldner Performing Arts Center (WPAC).
“I first got acquainted with the WPAC when I got cast in my first show on the stage,” says Acell. “Rehearsals usually started around 5 at night and ended around 9, so I got very acquainted with the stage itself, as well as the people I was cast in the show with."
All major theatre productions at the College take place in the WPAC. As one of the largest buildings on main campus, it’s hard to miss. “When I see it…I always get filled with a sense of pride,” says Acell.
The Theatre program is a small, tight-knit group. They get to know each other well, as they share many of the same classes and time in WPAC. Along with his classmates, Acell has learned a lot about theatre lingo and, more specifically, how a performing arts space works.
“You will know WPAC like the back of your hand within a few months,” he says. “Where prop storage is, where the green room is, and most importantly, you’ll figure out where to go when someone says ‘go to the shop’ without asking which one!” There are two areas labeled as a shop–the costume shop and the wood/work shop–and Acell has come to learn that, most of the time, the word ‘shop’ refers to the wood shop.
There are many resources in the WPAC, and Theatre students get to know the space through class and participation in productions. “My Stagecraft class helped me learn about the different areas of the stage,” shares Acell. “The wings, the catwalks, the lighting, and sound booth…it’s a lot of information that I didn’t know about before I came to YCP.”
In another class, Acell became well acquainted with the wood shop. Students sign up for hours in the shop, where they learn about the different tools and areas. “When we were working on The Moors, I was not only acting in the show itself, but I also got to help out in the shop,” he says. “Sawing the wood planks and cutting the steel into the correct measurements, it was honestly a lot of fun—very loud, but also very informative.”
In March of 2021, he played the part of Macduff and Banquo in a ’70s version of Macbeth. While having two roles in one production is an accomplishment in itself, he proudly states, “the accolades don’t stop there.”
Because of his performance in Macbeth, Acell was nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). He was one of 84 nominees in the first round and made it all the way to the final round. He credits time in the WPAC and the Theatre program at York College as well as Assistant Professor of Theatre Suzanne Delle’s guidance and mentorship for helping him to achieve this.
Theatre students often hang out in and around the WPAC, even outside of class and shows. Acell says it’s been a place to not only overcome personal hurdles, but also to make long-lasting friendships.
Prior to rehearsals for upcoming shows, Theatre students meet early to practice going over lines and enjoy each other’s company. “Even if we didn’t have class or rehearsal that day, we would still just come to hang out and laugh with each other,” he says. “I’m going to make a lot more memories there.”
“Doing my first two shows in the WPAC got rid of my nerves in an instant, and then that’s when I truly felt in my element,” says Acell. “An actor under the bright lights, doing what I do best in a place that’s become my second home.”
The Waldner Performing Arts Center (referred to on campus as the WPAC) is the hallmark of the Humanities Center. On average, the 705-seat theatre hosts 10 theatrical and musical productions each year. The WPAC opened in 2008 as the Collegiate Performing Arts Center and was later named the WPAC after former President of the College, Dr. George W. Waldner, who served the College from 1991 to 2013.