Construction continues: Performing arts center to finish in 2018

Construction of the performing arts center will continue until late January. The official opening is set to be in early March of 2018.

Kathy Fang

Construction of the performing arts center will continue until late January. The official opening is set to be in early March of 2018.

by Nina Gee, Reporter

Construction of the new gymnasium has concluded as the school year begins this fall, while construction of the new performing arts center will continue into January.

The theater will be finished in late January and open for use in February.

“There’s what’s called a soft opening,” Facility Director Mike Bassoni said. “There’s going to be a Cantilena and chorus presentation in late February, and then there’s going to be a grand ribbon cutting and stage performance in early March of 2018.”

Besides the actual theater itself, the building will include three voice rooms, an acting room, a 2,500 square foot orchestra classroom, several soundproof practice rooms, a temperature-controlled closet for the new concert grand piano and a scene shop with carpentry and metal-working tools for creating set pieces.

“The classroom spaces are going to be offering us room to sort of spread out. We’re tucked into old dorm rooms, basically, right now,” upper school theater teacher Jeffrey Draper said. “Now that we’re getting a real, honest-to-goodness theater, I think that even we are going to be surprised by what we get.”

Much like a professional theater, the new performing arts center will feature an individual projector, a control booth and lighting catwalks that will not only be used by Harker’s paid theater technicians but can also be manned by students. A 20-position fly tower, a system of cables and pulleys along the depth of the stage, will be used to change theater backdrops during performances.

“We can [use the fly tower to] change the backdrop of the stage with canvases that are going to be 30 feet wide and 20 feet high,” Bassoni said. “Between scenes, you’ll be able to run these canvases up and down to change the scenery. These pulleys and cables are strong enough that you could fly in a huge piece of set. You could have a covered wagon drop down out of the ceiling if you were doing a Western theme.”

Another feature of the center is the hydraulic orchestra pit, which can be moved to four different elevations.

“You can park the floor of the orchestra pit on any of the four elevations,” said architect Bill Bondy. “Three of them are usefulthe lowest will be where you’ll put the orchestraand if you don’t have an orchestra, you can move the floor up to the stage level.”

The theater lobby will house a 15 feet by 35 feet digital display screen, which students and faculty can utilize to project announcements on.

“It’s a form of visual arts and, initially, there’s a programmer who’s writing an electronic story of the history of Harker and the types of activities at Harker,” Bassoni said. “But it’s software, so we can shut that program off and a Harker student, or multiple Harker students, could write their own software, and we could load it in and that could be projected on the screen,” Bassoni said.

This school year’s spring musical, “42nd Street,” will be the first major event held in the theater.

There will be no parking opportunities on campus for the first semester of this school year. However, the completion of the theater in the second semester will allow for seniors and a few juniors to park on campus.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on September 6, 2017.