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Students Smell Something Rotten in Stratton Center

By Zareena Hussain

Students thanked their lucky noses Sunday as the mysterious stench that filled the Student Center for much of the past week subsided.

For anyone who was wondering, the source of the strange, manure-like odor originated from paint used for sets in the Musical Theater Guild’s production of Evita that ran in La Sala de Puerto Rico Thursday through Sunday..

“It reeked,” admitted Elicia R. Anderson ’01, MTG president.

The theatre company used paint containing casein, a protein commonly found in milk. Stage hands didn’t realize that the casein in the paint had begun rotting until they began to paint the night before the show opened, according to Anderson.

“They didn’t have a choice because of time constraints,” Anderson said, “They tried to use the good paint first but ran out.”

Those however who experienced the brunt of the bad smell -- the cast-members themselves -- took a somewhat stoic attitude.

“You get used to it,” said Sara J. Elice ’01, “We didn’t like the smell but we got accustomed to it.”

However, passersby couldn’t help but notice.

“It was nasty,” said Joanne Lee ’00, who had to be in Student Center Friday night preparing a presentation when the smell had reached its relative peak. “It was even in the stairwell.” According to Lee some others commented, “‘It smells like butt.’”

Some don’t notice stench

Some were left altogether unaffected. According to one Toscanini’s employee, closed doors between the Student Center and the ice cream shop helped to keep the smell out.

Anderson could not comment on whether the smell from the paint affected ticket sales.

The Campus Activities Complex used deodorant spray and put up fans to try to ventilate the area, according to Michael W. Foley, associate director for operations for CAC.

Using rotten paint for sets can be a common pitfall. “We’ve almost made the same mistake before,” said Ashwini G. Deshpande G a member of the Gilbert & Sullivan Players which recently switched to latex-based paints for their sets. Usually for G&S, there is enough time to buy new paint in the event the old paint has gone bad, Deshpande said.

“The bad paint has been thrown away,” Anderson said adding that the MTG managing board will discuss the possibility of switching from casein- to latex-based paints.

The sets are now being stored in the shop in the basement of Walker shared by MTG and other theater groups waiting to be cleaned, Anderson said. Parts of the sets included G&S owned material.

“We are planning to discuss the condition of the shared materials with MTG,” Deshpande said.

The paint using by MTG was Rosco’s Iddings Deep Colors line. It is used for its matte, non-reflective finish and has a normal shelf-life of 18-24 months. In guidelines for using the paint, the company warns, “Once wet paint spoils, you cannot use the paint and assume the smell will disperse after the coating has dried. The smell will not go away and there is very little that can be done to remove it.”