from the SD Union Tribune by Deborah Sullivan Brennan
Construction of a new $20 million performing arts center at Oceanside High School reached its half-way point on January 26, 2017 and should be completed by June, officials said.
The project — which will include a 502-seat theater with an orchestra pit, lighting and sound system, as well as a 100-seat black box performance space — is thrilling for students and faculty at the downtown campus with a robust creative arts program that has struggled without a permanent home.
“It’s huge,” said choir and guitar teacher Leah Ritt. “We have a space that we can perform in now,and we’ve never had that.”
The choir typically holds its concerts outside, she said, which makes it difficult to control the sound or plan for weather, she said.
“A dedicated space is a beautiful thing, to be able to be showcased, to be able to be seen and heard,” Ritt said.
The roughly 29,000-square-foot facility will accommodate the school’s drama and theater courses, as well as its band, choir and media program, said Principal Teresa Hill-Collis.
That’s a welcome improvement over the current situation, in which theater classes must rent space elsewhere for performances, and the choir performs outdoors.
On Friday the frame and walls of the center were mostly constructed, and crews are working to complete the interior, as well as windows, doors and courtyards. Workers installed metal panels finished in patina green on the front of the center.
The entryway will include a ticket booth, concession stand, and lobby that can double as gallery space. Two-story glass windows, designed to glow at night, will frame the front of the facility.
“One of the items that the school board is interested in is that the building will become an iconic feature of Oceanside,” said architect Jennette La Quire, studio leader for K-12 projects with the firm Harley Ellis Devereaux. “During the nighttime it will be illuminated and attractive for people visiting.”
Inside, the main theater is in the works, with rows of seating taking shape. An orchestra pit dips below the stage to allow live music to accompany theatrical productions. And an optional stage cover will allow performers to extend the stage space when the pit is not being used by musicians.
A catwalk winds above the perimeter of the theater, and into the rear of the stage, where technical crews can rig sound and lighting gear. Drama and music students will learn not only how to perform, but also how to operate theatrical and recording equipment, Hill-Collis said.
That range of skills will become one of the school’s career pathways, which combine specific professional training and work experience with academic instruction, she said. The school already has such pathways for healthcare and criminal justice, and expects to develop one that will focus on visual and performing arts, and media production.
Behind the main theater are classrooms, dressing rooms, and storage areas, along with the black box theater, which is a flexible space that can be configured with round, u-shaped or stadium seating depending on the needs of the production, said Matt Evans, director of facilities for the district.
“It’s for smaller productions, or ones where they’re more focused on the actor that props and sets,” Hill-Collis said.
A recording booth in the back of the theater will allow students to produce music, news and daily bulletins, and a spacious storage room will let them stash props between performances.
“When you build a school building, it’s going to be here for 50, 75, 100 years,” Evans said. “So if you think of all the productions that will take place in this building, there will be plenty of space to store props for future productions.”