For a talented and passionate group of young actors from Northfield High School (NHS), their recent production of The Canterbury Tales wove together their love of theatre, new knowledge of people and places from the 1300s, and a concern about their current theatre facilities. As the only International Baccalaureate (IB) high school in the state with no auditorium for their theatre program, they are imploring DPS to build an auditorium.
Actors in The Canterbury Tales may not have had to learn speech patterns from the 14th century, but they did learn that Chaucer’s original Canterbury Tales, “are used in culture all the time. It’s like, wow,
Monty Python totally stole this from the Canterbury tales,” says Tyler Imhof. “It’s really interesting to look at something and see where we get pop culture.”
Northfield’s theatre department, which includes theatre arts, IB theatre, production, and stagecraft classes, is growing rapidly as the school grows. In addition, NHS shares its cafetorium with DSST: Conservatory Green, since both are located on Sandoval Campus. Theatre production teacher Ryan Hill says with a shared campus, both schools have reduced use of the cafetorium for classes since it’s used for lunch several hours a day. “It’s not the same experience for a student to do his scene in a classroom compared to on stage. It is not conducive to teaching a theater class.
“These kids are not receiving the knowledge… how to focus and hang lights… sit in an AV booth and properly run a show… DPS calls this a comprehensive high school, which it, of course, is not, without an auditorium….
“When our students go from this space to college, they are not going to be prepped in the same manner as a student who goes to East or any other high school with a theater.”
Actor Kate Stewart says it’s about respect. “… you see that everything you love and have put so much effort into and… people don’t see it as a piece of work. They see it as a hobby that you can do in the same space as a cafeteria.“Where it still smells like lunch,” adds Imhof.
Theatre and stagecreaft teacher Gwynn Potter says, “Acoustically this building was made to dampen sound. In an auditorium, acoustics are created to project across the audience.”
NHS Principal Amy Bringedahl, Ryan Hill and numerous students shared this perspective with DPS Board members at the Board’s monthly meeting on November 15.
DPS responded to the Front Porch’s request for information about an auditorium at NHS with the same informational letter they sent to families who contacted them on this subject. Due to increased enrollment projections, DPS will need to borrow approximately $50 million in funds for another classroom building at NHS, taking “financial risk in assuming obligations without the voter authorization for specific taxes to pay for them.” For this reason, says DPS, they need to limit the project to what they believe is critical to serve Sandoval campus students.
The scope of the new project at Sandoval campus includes a stagecraft classroom and workshop, changing rooms, music classrooms, and improvements to the lighting and sound on stage. Though DPS has built 17 new facilities in the past 15 years, only one had an auditorium (Denver school of the Arts) due to funding limitations.
Parent Jen Carabetta, in a written statement to DPS, said, “We do not feel the DPS is spending money wisely to ‘add on to or improve’ the existing inefficient and poorly planned cafeteria stage space due to the fact that currently the cafeteria is used 75% of the time…” for eating, meetings and other non-theatre purposes. Students, teachers, parents and administrators are all asking that the auditorium be built as part of the $50 million Sandoval campus expansion and believe it could be built for $8 million.