Perfect the Place to Practice – Love, an Arts Student

Football+game+is+displayed+in+front+of+the+stage+A+mystery+sign+is+being+painted+on+the+stage.+Haha.

Football game is displayed in front of the stage A mystery sign is being painted on the stage. Haha.

When explaining my thoughts on our school to those who ask, the first con that comes to mind is the building. We all are cognizant of and have no choice but to joke about how we have leaking ceilings, cracked floors, and, occasionally, bats. The janitorial staff does the best they can, but nothing will change the fact that this is the building my dad started school and graduated in, from 1987-1991. It is also the same building I have been in this whole time.

Therefore, the recent promise of a new building coming quite soon has become the seed of hope for those who will be a student in time for the new space. After a battle with tax payers and concerned staff and parents, plans are finally in the works for a building suitable for our high-schoolers. With this news, rumors undoubtedly begin to fly. A consistent speculation I have heard, however, is personal to me: a plan for an auditorium.

I and my theatrical endeavors have been wrestling with the so-called “cafetorium” since middle school. In high school, however, kids seem to become messier as eaters and our supposed stage, the place where we are expected to perform, is constantly littered with squashed grapes, half-eaten pizza slices, and sticky wrappers. Additionally, years of set pieces clutter the backstage area, where we are supposed to cross freely. Our only form of dressing room is a cheer closet with their large maze of mats and a mop bucket I distinctly remember finding a dead rat in.

While working on Legally Blonde: the musical my freshman year, I remember questioning how we could ever have a smooth performance if Elle Woods might accidentally slip on a forgotten banana peel or if I had to make one of my 7 quick changes while not being crushed by a giant blue mat. Covid was the one who not only answered my question, but scrapped the whole thing. The following year is when we had the idea to use Woodford Theater’s facilities and I’ve not had to worry since. 

Our own stage is something we are incredibly fortunate to have, but I still wonder how my first production here would have turned out if it wasn’t cut short. Therefore, an auditorium, a dedicated space, built into the school would be transformative because while Woodford Theatre is spectacular, the stress of only having a few rehearsals in the actual performance space, finding compatible show dates, working with unfamiliar tech systems,  and cost still exists. Being able to practice like we perform is a privilege we don’t take lightly.

Not only would this space be helpful for students of theatre, but for band, choir, and orchestra as well. Currently, band classes for the 1st periods of Gold and Black days have to take place in the choir room because the orchestra is using the band room. They share 1 practice room among the three of them, an issue to everyone who wants a private place to practice, almost essential to studying performing arts. Details such as those aforementioned are some I’ve had time to ponder about and also, where possible problems with the new building arise.

The projected auditorium seems marvelous, but I’ve heard that there will be no storage. I’ve also not heard talks of practice rooms or thought processes behind how this space will be tailored to 4 slightly different art forms. I acknowledge these conversations could be taking place behind closed doors and I applaud them for considering the arts at all, but just drawing a large rectangle and labeling it auditorium is not our only satisfaction, I hope. Forgive me if it sounds bitter or tired, but I don’t think arts students should have to settle for crumbs compared to the 3-tiered cake sports programs receive.

I understand more than anyone that the performing arts aren’t for everybody and that sports are an incredibly important facet of high school culture. I also recognize that facilities and resources have not exactly been perfect for student athletes, especially with the gym-condemning fiasco that occurred last year. What I do think should be considered is seeking voices that speak for all kinds of high school students. Just as someone might want to workout and drill before college recruiters visit, art students often have what we call pre-screens (video submissions to colleges sent prior before auditioning in-person), live auditions, and performances to practice for. Thus, inviting art teachers and experts into the building plans just as gym teachers and coaches would speak is only fair. An auditorium means much less if music classrooms and practice spaces are subpar, or if storage spaces for instruments, set pieces, etc are nowhere to be found. If consultation is unavailable, I think it is only fair to put as much thought into our structures as athletes’ areas. 

I’m sure these ideas have been considered and if not, it’s because everyone, on some level, is tired of performing arts students never being satisfied. Even I get bored of it sometimes. Although, what else should be expected from people training in the art of striving for absolute perfection? For years, I feel as if we have worked to be adaptable, finding new venues, rolling with abrupt changes, and finding community in sharing. When the notion of a performance space is offered, the hope feels too real and good to not make sure it is done right. 

Not to mention, you never know if one of these incoming students could end up on Broadway or the Billboard Top 100 and wouldn’t you want them to refer to WCHS and their auditorium as they place they were seen, safe, and their talent was cultivated?