Auditorium proves worth every buck
Posted Monday, February 6, 2017, at 2:58 PM
There are times you have to wonder if a big community project is worth the big cost.
Rest assured. The Storm Lake High School auditorium should leave no such question lingering about in local minds.
It’s not just that it’s being used, often and well. What impresses most is how the students “own” the joint. That’s what makes it worth all that green.
In a span of three days recently, I watched a Swing Show filled with musical talent, wandered through an art show packed with imagination, and enjoyed a Showcase of Speech loaded with acting chops.
Now, this school has had strong band, vocal, visual arts, speech and drama programs long before there was an auditorium to show it off in. The talent we’ve always had.
But there’s a new energy and excitement to the productions now - you can feel it. I’ve already staked out my spot, behind the second pillar from the front in the walkway, stage right - a nifty angle from which you can photograph everything.
As much as I enjoy the talent on the stage, I also like that there, you can see the kids scurrying around, setting scenes backstage, running back to help in the light and sound booths, taking on emcee duties with confidence, and during speech and music, racing out after their own performances to populate front row left to support their fellow performers as they take the stage.
This setup fosters a cool camaraderie. I don’t know how or why, it just works. Many of the same kids who were in the music show on Saturday night were also in speech Monday night, but others who performed in one or the other turned out to support the fellow performers.
Sometimes in schools you get a feeling that sports is all that matters - that the arts are a distant second in investment and attention.
Storm Lake puts money into sports equipment and travel, but it’s also been quietly plugging several thousand dollars a year over the past half decade into musical instruments and stage gear, as the students themselves have helped out with fundraisers.
It may have taken a long, long time to get our auditorium project off the ground, but when the project came, it was the arts facility first, the renovation of the gym later.
It was not cheap to build the auditorium. It required sacrifice and patience aplenty from all of the people who live in the district, and especially the students and teachers who spent years with their school as a noisy construction zone.
Almost always when there is a multi-million-dollar project in a small community, with all of the related headaches, you’ll hear some people grumble afterward that it cost too much and we didn’t really need it.
It strikes me that I don’t believe I have heard one person say a negative thing about that auditorium, even with construction taking a year longer than expected. Certainly, none of the people who have come out to enjoy the first events in the new facility have anything but appreciation.
That brings up a thought. The music and speech shows were incredible. Those who were there were moved, they laughed, they were thoroughly entertained by young talent, they went home and talked about it on Facebook. What better way could you spend a winter night in Storm Lake? And yet there were a lot of empty seats. Shows of this quality should be SRO.
I know the students own this facility. You can tell they appreciate, treasure and make the most of it. But what about the public?
Maybe we need one of those electronic signs out front to make sure everyone knows what performances are coming up. Posters around town, more in the media, whatever.
It’s important, I think, that the people of the Storm Lake area know that they own this place, too. That they know that school performances here aren’t just for the students and their parents.
People went to shows when they were held in a sweltering gym, or a drafty cavern in a closed-down elementary school. Trust me, the experience now is a lot more enjoyable. You can see, and hear from every seat in the house, and you don’t get bleacher-butt.
I’d like to see a lot of younger kids in the crowd - the future musical prodigies, artists and actors waiting to be inspired.
The entertainment potential of this facility is something we’ve only just begun to touch. Having a great venue for the concerts and plays and other performances - and hopefully some professional acts and cultural events when students aren’t using the auditorium - can lift Storm Lake to a new level.
As a community, we should do as good a job at putting out showplace to maximum use as as our exceptional fine arts students are already doing.