Break a Leg! (But literally)


Ashley Walters

After years of requests from performing arts teachers, advisors, parents, and students, the auditorium was nearly left out of the renovation plans for the high school. While it turns out that there will be no aesthetic changes to the auditorium, a few convenience changes and a safety change are in store. 

It’s no secret to anyone that works on the stage, especially backstage, that the stage is desperately in need of repairs. Holes in the stage leave spaces to trip on exposed wood, and the stage surface is simply just years of repainted black paint. 

And that’s not even the start of it when it comes to the hazards our stage crew faces. 

Senior Dani Golab, a backstage manager for this and last year’s fall plays and musicals, brought up the hazard on the catwalk, which is the overhead control center for curtains and lights. “The catwalk area with the lights in the ceiling is extremely dangerous because anyone can fall through with one misstep.”

A picture of the inside of the catwalk. As soon as you enter, a ‘dark hole of mystery’ opens up to your left.

Golab continued, “The same could be said for the storage lofts in which heavy set pieces can fall on people or someone could fall off of the loft. A simple improvement could be adding some type of railing to add security.”

At the start of each production, stage crew members climb up into the loft and search for furniture and decor pieces that could work for the show. These pieces are then handed down to crew members on the floor. The issue is, however, that these set pieces can be up to 200 pounds or more, and the loft is located about 15 feet from the floor on a ledge without a railing. I have personally helped with this task before, and it should be noted that if you’re the one up on the ledge you can be pulled with the heavy equipment down to the floor, and if you’re on the floor, you can be crushed by the furniture if you’re not careful. 

Superintendent Dr. Foley stated that he was previously unaware of the lack of railing on the loft and will work to get some kind of safety measure in place.

Mackenzie Protos shows the lack of measures to prevent injuries from the loft.

Students noticed these hazards and more in our auditorium that could be easily fixed with a bit of attention and funding. That’s why, at the October school board meeting, Senior Mackenzie Protos spoke.

Protos was spurred on by a talk with Mr. Sypian, our choral teacher, to keep pushing for change after it appeared for a time that there were going to be no changes to the auditorium in the renovation.

During Protos’ time speaking to the school board during the “hear from the public” portion of the meeting, she reiterated the points that she had stated previously in her letter to the board. Protos, in her speech, pointed out that our auditorium is lackluster in comparison to other schools with similar budgets, such as Deer Lakes who just got a brand new auditorium with their renovation.

She also mentioned her observations that supported that the auditorium would be unsafe in the case of a crowd escaping because of the sparse two aisles and single exit door that leads to the parking lot without a key or badge.

Foley later responded to this comment by saying that the auditorium is entirely ADA compliant, meaning that the auditorium should still be safe for the audience in that kind of situation.

When asked about whether she believes the board cares about the performing arts, Protos said “I have never felt that the school cares about what I do.” Protos cites the neglect of the auditorium as further evidence of her suspicions. 

Senior Megan Edder, board representative, feels differently. Edder is also a part of chamber strings for the orchestra and has worked with stage crew in the past. Edder believes in the good intentions of the board towards the arts. She cites a moment a few years ago when the orchestra program was at risk of dying out when the teacher retired, and Dr. Foley, the superintendent, explained how he would not let the program fall apart. That stood true when we acquired Mr. Carreiro as the new orchestra director. 

However, Edder still acknowledges the dangers that the auditorium poses to students. And, like Golab, brought up the difficult to access storage spaces, but remained in her belief that the board would do something about the auditorium if they could.

Junior Ian Squyres, member of the fall play, concert band, marching band, and the pit orchestra for musical, requests at the very least “a thorough examination of the auditorium to ensure student and faculty safety.”

Of the students fighting for auditorium renovations, many have been assumed to be against the sports renovations, such as the new track or the turf field, which the marching band is also looking forward to. In a conversation with Protos, choral teacher Mr. Sypian had compared the needs of the sports programs with needs of the arts by saying “the stage is our field.”

Chelsea Schilpp, mother of a member of the theater and choral program said of the conflict, “We’re not asking for an ‘instead of’. We’re asking for ‘an addition to.”

Foley added that while the entire auditorium structure cannot be changed, the theater program will be getting new changing/makeup rooms. There is also promise of a new sound system in addition to the new LED lights, and room for new handicapped seats will be made when the soundboard is moved into the current metal detector storage slots. And, it is expected that there will be restrooms near the auditorium put in place so that students can stop using the faculty restrooms during showtime.

Overall, while many wish that we could get more in this renovation, the theater program will now get a fair share of the plans. Hopefully, because of these alterations, future students that use the auditorium will have an even better experience than we did.