Northwest NEWS

January 31, 2000


Performing arts center needs to be completed

   The lights go down, voices hush, and the audience brims with anticipation as they wait for the curtain to rise. When the lights come up and the curtain opens, few of the patrons sitting in the Cedarcrest Performing Arts Center understand just how miraculous it is that there is a show to see.

   Resourceful students, under the guidance of drama teacher Karen King, have managed to create another show with production values that belie the paucity of equipment in this intimate theater. In true show business tradition, they have worked their magic to transform meager materials into an illusion of grandeur.

   When Cedarcrest High School opened in 1993, the theater began as a jewel in the rough. The basic shell was there, but the equipment necessary to bring it to life was not. Though students clamored to get into drama classes, the technical theater training they needed to round out their experience in theater arts just wasn't available.

   Over the years, Mrs. King's students got used to selling candy bars in order to equip the theater with the most basic essentials. They bought used lighting boards and sound systems, purchased fabric to sew into make-do stage draperies, and sacrificed a good portion of the usable stage space in order to store scenery and props backstage.

   In the fall of 1998, the Duvall Arts Commission and the Duvall Foundation for the Arts began presenting professional performances in the theater. They soon learned the limitations of the space. Artistic directors who came to assess how they would produce their shows in the theater unfailingly loved the space at first sight, but puzzled over why it was technically incomplete.

   Some cited safety concerns because of the crowded backstage area and the number of extension cords necessary to rig up even the most basic lighting plots. In order to present the performing artists they wanted to bring to the community, the arts groups had to rent equipment to meet even the scaled-down requirements of most shows.

   When the performances attracted large audiences, the arts groups decided to share half of their proceeds to donate additional lighting instruments to the theater. But it is beyond the scope of the students' candy bar sales and the arts groups' donations to bring the theater up to the standard the school and the community deserve. Meanwhile, students miss out on valuable vocational training that could qualify them to work in technical theater jobs, and the community loses out when arts groups have to decline opportunities to present great artists because of the theater's technical limitations.

   On February 29, Riverview School District voters will be asked to approve a levy to complete the Cedarcrest Performing Arts Center. For a total cost of $210,000 ($0.07 per $1,000 in 2001 and 2002), the Lower Snoqualmie Valley can have a theater that lives up to its promise.

   We can polish that jewel and allow its radiance to shine through. When you vote on February 29, vote yes for schools; vote yes for performing arts.

Carolyn A. Butler, Duvall