Bonner High auditorium gets big debut with ‘Annie’ production
Monday afternoon, Hunter Amego was in the sound and lighting booth in the remodeled Bonner Springs auditorium, running through the lighting settings for different scenes.
Some of the cues for the school’s new musical production, “Annie,” had been set when the house lights were on, he explained, causing some lighting difficulties they discovered earlier in the day while performing for the elementary and middle school students.
“I do have to say, this is a lot better than what we had last year,” he said, fiddling with buttons on the new lighting board. “It was not the nicest looking thing, and also, it was like you had to hold this button down while holding down that one to turn this on.”
Brian White, BSHS choral activities director and director of the musical, said the lights may be his favorite part of the auditorium’s $959,900 renovation.
“The lighting is drastically different,” he said. “We were severely limited in what we could do, very minimalistic-type things … the lights are the big thing for me, and just the general ambiance of the room. It adds a sense of professionalism, for the performer and the audience. It will be a much more enjoyable experience for the audience.”
In addition to the lighting and sound system, the auditorium received new theater seats, new stage curtains, acoustical improvements such as ceiling tiles and drywall soffits, new carpet and aisle lighting, vestibule entrances to facilitate light blocking, additional storage for miscellaneous theater equipment next to light and sound control booths at back of the theater. One of the big costs was raising the concrete floor near the stage, so that the drop from the stage to the floor went from 60 inches to 42 inches for safety and visibility issues.
White said the school’s drama program has been revitalized with the newly refurbished facility, which sat relatively untouched for the last 40 years.
“We’ve used the new auditorium to our advantage to start anew with everything,” White said. “Really, we’ve turned over a new leaf.”
The new program also was created with the addition of a drama instructor, Chris Hotchkiss, and “Annie” will mark the first time a drama department has been involved in a BSHS production.
Monday was the first time in years that BSHS has brought in younger district students to watch a production prior to its regular performances, which will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
And the last time BSHS put on a production bigger than this was the same musical, Annie, nine years ago, when nearly 100 students took part. This production includes more than 55 students.
More than 90 percent of the cast members are “rookies,” White said; only three performed in the most recent school production, “Clue,” in the fall of 2013, which was the first musical performed in four years due to budgetary constraints.
The performer in the title role, Heidi Rodgers, is one of those rookies. Rodgers has performed in the choir in previous years, but this is her first time in theater. But she said she was among the many drawn to be part of the production since they received audition materials in late August.
“Everyone wanted to be a part of it somehow, even if that meant being backstage,” she said. “And it’s cool because we’ve never had the backdrops and stuff, so it’s just a thing we’re not used to, so it’s interesting.”
Juan Vela-Olaez, playing lead role of Daddy Warbucks, also is new to theater. He said he wanted to be part of the musical as a personal challenge.
“I guess I just knew that it would change me, it would change my personality entirely — and it did, through the people and self-growth,” Vela-Olaez said.
Rodgers agreed that the best part of the musical has been personal development.
“I think it’s more of learning about ourselves and growing in ourselves; I enjoy the people the most,” she said. “And the jokes are really funny.”
But Rodgers added that the renovations have helped the students feel at home as they learn about putting on a theatrical production.
“Before, it was just like a room that we sang in,” she said. “But now it’s our sanctuary. You can tell that it sounds a lot better; you just get a different vibe.”
“It was long overdue; we were really severely handicapped,” White added. “Now we have a facility that matches the quality of work our students put out.”