Gateway

'Underfunded arts programs' at Peninsula, Gig Harbor high schools show their age

Klay Dutton, Peninsula High senior, said the seats in the Milton S. Boyd Performing Arts Center auditorium are very outdated and frequently need to be fixed. Many are falling apart.
Klay Dutton, Peninsula High senior, said the seats in the Milton S. Boyd Performing Arts Center auditorium are very outdated and frequently need to be fixed. Many are falling apart. Contributing writer

Over the years, this column has carried dress rehearsal stories of the fabulous thespians and their supporters at Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools. The last one was on GHHS drama department’s scintillating production of “Guys and Dolls.” The next one, in a couple weeks, will be PHS drama’s gala on the antics of Dr. Seuss in the musical, “Seussical.”

I dropped by PHS last week and luckily caught the cast practicing its “Seussical” routines. I lauded their enthusiasm and asked how things could be better.

WOW!

Senior Klay Dutton said, “I've been involved in many different activities at our school including soccer, wrestling, play production, musical theater and more. Our school is an amazing place with a great environment. It also has some downfalls to our facilities. For example, the seats in the theater auditorium are very outdated and frequently need to be fixed. Many are falling apart. This could give our school a bad reputation to visitors and our own students. Another example is our bathrooms and locker rooms. Stalls have doors that do not lock. Ceiling tiles falling in the locker room pose a safety hazard and aren’t very pretty. Like I said, our school is amazing, but fixing these things would better our futures and education inside it."

I followed Klay's classmate, Tony Lasley, back stage where he pointed out, "Our lighting system is as old as the auditorium itself, dating back to the 1970s. The part of the system that powers the distribution of power to all the lights is so old and broken that we have to completely shut off the system before working on it for fear of being electrocuted. Our systems are so old that they are actual hazards to our lives. The matrix channels enough power to kill one of us.”

I really didn’t want to believe this but there it was staring me in the face!

"We have so many needs,” said English and drama instructor Kara Beloate. "The Milton S. Boyd Performing Arts Center could be and should be a wonderful gathering place for our community as well as our school, but with broken seats, an antiquated lighting system and outdated technical capabilities, the facility is not able to be used to its fullest potential. Our performing arts program does amazing things with what we have, but we spend a whole lot of money to rent equipment twice a year, money that could be better spent on our students. Wouldn't it be great to have a fully functional performing arts facility that could be a hub for our community, a place of growth and exploration for our students, and a source of pride for our school?”

Junior Audrey Carter said, "I have been involved with every production done at this school since my freshman year."

She led me to a tumultuous part of the backstage to show me the wood used in their workshops to create the beautiful sets in their theatrical productions.

Unfortunately, due to extreme underfunding to the performing arts department, this is the same wood used to create the sets in "Aida," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Les Miserables.."

"(Katrina) Ellis and (Kara) Beloate work so very hard to make sure we put on the beautiful shows that we are known for. This means that a significant portion of the money spent on these shows comes from their own pockets. The cliche of the 'underfunded arts department' is a tale as old as time but it’s a fairy tale in which I’d like to witness a happy ending,” she said.

As would I!

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at hughmcm26@gmail.com.
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