“This takes everything to a professional level,” said, longtime Theatre Director Andy Reynolds after he gave the grand tour of the department to the Daily Light.
“The students have been acting at a professional level for years,” Reynolds continued. “They understand what it takes to be the best. But to give them a facility that reflects all of the blood, sweat, and tears that they put into this department for years is a nice coming together.”
With the advanced space and technology, performances will be enhanced as the student actors train and act in the state-of-the-art facility.
Reynolds recognized how the students in years past have created the foundation for the program and developed a significant status within the district and state. He then acknowledged Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn and former Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Clyde Melick for including the feedback and vision provided by the theatre department faculty.
“They listened to our opinions, and honestly everything that we have here is what we designed and drew out on notebook paper,” Reynolds relayed. “We were blown away by the amount of input we were allowed to have.”
The upgraded Fine Arts Center is located on the east side of the campus, next to the gymnasium. The section dedicated to theatre includes The Jennifer Stevens Stage, a black box theatre, male and female dressing rooms, a shop, storage room for props and costumes, and two additional classrooms.
Advanced drama classes will be held in the 50-foot by 48-foot black box theatre. The room is doubled in size and can seat up to 150 people. Risers were placed in the room to create versatile seating arrangements.
“You are really only limited to your imagination on how to set it up,” Reynolds mentioned.
The black box theatre is also equipped with a catwalk completed on all four walls. Reynolds relayed he has never seen this luxury in a black box theatre in a high school setting.
“This is a true black box,” Reynolds emphasized.
Between the black box theatre and the main stage are two sets of dressing rooms for male and female performers. Each room is designed with a private bathroom including a toilet and shower. Clothes racks line the back half the dressing rooms, while the front is designed with three, lighted mirrors.
The dressing rooms, main stage, and Reynolds’ office are all equipped with a digital live-stream monitor and communication system, also known as the “stage manager com.” This system allows the students to communicate with each other when on opposite sides of the department.
“It is the very best that a high school could have,” Reynolds expressed as he gave the tour.
When entering the shop, Reynolds was quick to point out the panel saw, which provides an efficient way to cut wood. “This will make our lives easier when building sets,” Reynolds affirmed. The room also includes a second story storage area and shop doors to provide exterior access.
As Reynolds unlocked a storage door in the shop, he said, “This was kind of a love letter from the district. They stocked it with tools. […] It is Christmas.” Unopened boxes of power tools and equipment for stage and costume design classes filled the room. Mainly the theatre tech students will utilize the shop and supplies.
As Reynolds made his way to the rear of the main stage, he pointed out the significant size of the actin area. The front portion of the stage is a removable orchestra pit. The sleek, classic theatre was designed to seat a little over 800 people, which is a few chairs less compared to the former FAC.
The main theatre has a modern yet classic look with the stained wood paneling creating an intimate, cozy environment. The stadium seats differ from the rake style seating at the former FAC.
“You feel like you’re right on top of the actors and the acoustics and sound, oh my gosh, it’s 10 times better than the FAC. But, that was very important to the administrators and us,” Reynolds relayed.
Now the room is equipped with a sound buffer and a ceiling designed to bounce noise appropriately.
When choir and band use the theatre, a wooden amphitheater was placed on stage to enhance the sound. Three, lighted panels descend from the curtain area, and an orchestra shell is available to expand around the musical performance. Reynolds relayed how this equipment is utilized in professional concerts.
The proscenium is 45 feet long; the height of the proscenium is 25 feet, compared to 16 feet at the former FAC. From the pit cover to the back of the stage is an additional 10 feet in relation to the previous stage. “It’s equivalent to the same size of what we have now, just a little deeper. More acting space and depth,” Reynolds elaborated.
The control room is designed with a handicap-assessable elevator and is equipped with brand new, state-of-the-art technology, spotlights, and soundboard.
PREPARING FOR FALL
The current curriculum taught in the theatre-related classes will not differ from years past. But, three courses will be added. The department experienced an influx of talented freshmen, which influenced faculty to add an actor studio class, a costume class, and a play-write class. The program couldn’t expand at the former campus simply due to space. Reynolds anticipates 320 students enrolled in the program at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
Reynolds is still debating on the opening show but is confident will perform a slap-stick comedy in November. The first black box show will be in an original piece written by theatre instructor Ryan Mullican. Reynolds hinted the October show is about ghosts. "Mary Poppins" will be performed in late January for two weekends. “Mary Poppins will fly,” Reynolds assured. "Chicago" will be performed in May. In the second week in December, theatre instructor Paula Myers will have a drama showcase and another show in May. Reynolds has not decided on what show the UIL One-Act Play competitors will perform as they compete in 6A for the first year.
“We feel confident competing at the 6A level. I have every reason to believe we will be a state contender again,” Reynolds assured.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450