Wednesday, November 28, 2007

DP theater dream becomes a reality


After 40 long years of lugging heavy equipment to other local theaters and performing in a cramped, 150-seat converted classroom, Dos Pueblos High School students can finally stretch their limbs in a newly constructed 750-seat performing arts center unveiled yesterday.
Hundreds of community members, former teachers and students turned out to witness the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and first-ever performance in the state-of-the-art facility.

“What you are seated in today is a dream 40 years in the making,” Principal Mark Swanitz said. “…For the people who have been dreaming of this since the school was built, it is an incredible feeling. It’s just a dream come true.”
Totaling about 22,000 square feet, the theater features catwalks, a 54-foot fly loft, dressing rooms, choral and drama classrooms, a ticket office and tons of storage room.
Dos Pueblos senior Blake Bainou, a member of the drama and orchestra programs, described the cramped conditions in what is now affectionately referred to as the “Little Theater,” a 2,000 square-foot, black box theater previously used for performances.
“If any of you have been in the Little Theater, you know how small it really is,” Bainou said, citing a show in which he and six other orchestra members crammed into a cubicle-sized space.
“Violin strings weren’t the only thing my bow hit.”
An orchestra pit in the new theater can hold up to 25 orchestra members comfortably, he said. Bainou continued to run down a list of the many highlights of the new building, closing with “a women’s restroom with 11 stalls,” eliciting laughter and rousing applause from the audience.
Acoustical paneling and sound design carried both Bainou’s and Swanitz’ voices to the back row of seats despite a dysfunctional microphone — the only one missed during an early morning sound check, Swanitz cracked.
During his opening remarks, the principal described how when he came to Dos Pueblos two years ago, only a pile of girders rested on a mound of dirt. Gazing around the expansive space, he said it is hard to reconcile that image with the facility standing today.
“Countless generations of Chargers will benefit greatly from the use of such beautiful facilities,” Swanitz said.
Following a ribbon cutting that featured Superintendent Dr. Brian Sarvis, Harter, Swanitz and a handful of others involved in the project, performing arts students gave tours of the facility.
As visitors milled about backstage, gazing up at the lighting gridiron and set rigging, sophomore James Chavez described the vast improvement over the Little Theater.
“Ambient noise is completely cut out,” he said. “The seating is not even comparable to the old theater. Really, it’s incomparable.”
The $13-million project grew out of the development of a master plan for all junior high and high schools throughout the school districts eight years ago. On October 13, 1999, the Board of Education adopted a resolution putting Measure V, a $67-million bond measure, on the ballot with current board president Nancy Harter leading the charge.
“This project, more than any other construction project related to Measure V, captured the attention of the voters,” Harter said. “…I want to say thank you to the voters of Santa Barbara County.”
Although the recent push by school officials and community leaders brought the performing arts center to fruition, it has been in the minds of students and teachers since the construction of the high school in 1966.
“We needed it from day one,” former teacher John Switzer said.
Switzer, an industrial arts teacher who started teaching at Dos Pueblos in 1966, joined Gordon McClenathen and Mel Cokeley, both industrial arts teachers early in Charger history as well, to celebrate the theater opening.
“I have a grandson who graduated last year,” McClenathen said. “I wish he could have performed in this structure.”
Joining the reunion a few minutes later was former Dos Pueblos band director Isaac “Ike” Jenkins, who took over after director Irwin Maguire left the high school during the 1980s. He described how students were forced to haul equipment to San Marcos High School or other local venues for shows.
“After almost every performance we’d say, if only we had an auditorium,” Jenkins said. “It felt like we were always apologizing.”
Apologies are no longer necessary, he said, with the opening of the new performing arts center. Even though he is no longer teaching at Dos Pueblos, Jenkins said he is “celebrating for them.”
Construction on the theater started more than two years ago, in September 2005. Carl Mayrose, secondary project manager, said the project team met for countless hours during the construction process, calling them the most dedicated and professional people imaginable.
Les Rose, instrumental music director, said he has been performing for 40 years, but never had a stage to call home. Nodding to the jazz band on stage — which received thunderous applause for its performance of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” — Rose said, “My vision for this theater is sitting right here.”
After vocal music director Brian Slotnick-Lastrico led the Dos Pueblos Choir in an a cappella version of the national anthem, he echoed Rose’s sentiments.
“This is the place where kids can come every day and connect to that part of them that feels most close to home, most comfortable,” he said.
Highlighting an outdoor amphitheater and side stages that “will actually be lit for the show,” theatre arts director Clark Sayre said the new facility is comparable to the best high school theaters in the nation.
“The possibilities for this place are amazing and endless,” Sayre said.
Although Dr. Sarvis expressed unchecked enthusiasm for the future of performing arts at Dos Pueblos, he reminded the audience that several features had to be left out of the project due to budget constraints.
An outdoor canopy over the entrance didn’t make the cut, along with a band shell, amplifiers, music stands, a grand piano and a drum set. Dr. Sarvis said he hopes someone in the community will step forward.
“There is a significant naming opportunity here,” he said with a grin.
He also joined Harter in extending his thanks to the voters who approved Measure V.
“Without their vision and investment in our class of tomorrow, those talented students we have just seen and heard would still be rehearsing and performing in that converted classroom.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I go to DP and i love the new theater it is gorgeous.