The Growler

Problems Behind The Scenes

Samantha Mallory

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Over the years, the theatre program has been expanding at HHS. ELA Teacher Mrs. Laura Cummiskey has grown the drama offerings at HHS to two acting classes for college credit, and there is even an Acting 3 in the works. The acting classes are now presenting two productions each year as The Spotlight Players, in addition to the winter play and spring musical presented by the Drama Club.  

Despite the growth of the Drama program in the last few years, there are several issues that have yet to be addressed with regard to the space in which these performances work.

Natalee Irvin, junior, spoke about the poor quality of the lights.“The lighting has never been good.  It has really bad quality and it distracts us (the actors) from rehearsal so we can’t focus.” The reason why actors struggle with these lights is because they are very old, and could potentially blow out at any point in time, even on a performance night. In rehearsals, Mrs. Cummiskey, and assistant director, Ms. Antle always have to play with the lights just to keep them on so we can practice with scene changes. Anytime we take the lights down, they jump back up, so it is difficult to rehearse when the lights won’t cooperate.

Mr. Steven Elford, HHS Music Director, agreed about the lights. His room so happens to be where the actors perform their shows. “Our lights are very limiting since they provide general ‘washes’ of light, and nothing direct like a true spotlight. In a perfect world, a proper performing arts center would be ideal, but expensive. We are in need of a new lighting system.”

Elford said that a technician once came to inspect the light fixture and bid for upgrades.  “He indicated that the light board is extremely outdated, the dimmer box is wired incorrectly, and that the lighting instruments we currently have do not adequately meet the needs of that space.”

As much as the actor’s love to work closely with Mr .Elford, it is also his everyday classroom. That said, there are often spacing issues. Elizabeth Adams, junior, explained her concerns. “I think that working with Mr. Elford’s room has been a struggle for not only me but everyone who gets involved with performances. Even though the room works well with allowing actors and actresses to increase their volume, it is extremely small.” Recently in The Odd Couple, there was to be a required set. Mr. Helvey had to help build it just right so it would fit in the limited space we call a ‘stage.’

Cummiskey also pointed to the complications of sharing the space. “I do like the smaller space opposed to a bigger auditorium, however I wish we did have a different space so that the area was solely used for performance.” She added about having to share Elford’s everyday classroom for after school productions.  “I hate to use his (Mr.Elford’s) classroom because I feel like I’m infringing when he needs to be teaching.”

Elford also spoke on the sound issues when performing, “When it comes to a musical, this space is far to ‘live’ to allow for a pit or instruments to be played, so we use recorded tracks so that the volume and balance is (literally) in my hands.” If something doesn’t sound right in a production, then Elford’s hand probably slipped. The problem with recorded tracks is that it doesn’t give the real effect per se if you had a live band playing along with the cast.

Any renovations to the room would be significant, and so far there are no plans to address these issues. “At this time, there has not been a budget request for lights or sound,” Dr. Vogler stated.  Each year, the district facilities committee gets together to do long and short term planning. To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a request for theatre space.”

Irvin added, “It will eventually become a bigger problem. We can’t present theatre the way we want to at Hancock because we are limited with our space.”

1 Comment

One Response to “Problems Behind The Scenes”

  1. Bob Berndt on January 31st, 2018 8:02 pm

    This problem was pointed out repeatedly when the school was being planned and built. Those of us on the committee kept saying, “You wouldn’t build a school without a gym, how can you build one without a performing space.” We stopped being invited to the meetings and the project went on, without an adequate performance space.
    I’d love to read that the board and administration actually recognized the importance of performance arts with more than just words.

    Bob Berndt (HHS faculty, 1971 – 2007)

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