Tuesday, August 14, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 23

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on October 11th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 32

Pioneer Valley's Performing Arts Center to open its curtains in November

In celebration of the grand opening of Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s new Performing Arts Center, Pioneer Valley High School students will stick it to the man on Nov. 2 with an exclusive performance of School of Rock the Musical.

Pioneer Valley drama teacher Shawnah Van Gronigen said School of Rock the Musical will be the first production staged at the school’s new Performing Arts Center.

The production, based on the 2003 film starring Jack Black, was written by Julian Fellowes, includes 11 new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater, and will engage every performing arts program at Pioneer Valley High School. Drama teacher Shawnah Van Gronigen said the play’s 50-person cast and crew incorporates a collaboration of band and choir members, as well as drama and theater technology students.

“It’s a huge show,” Van Gronigen said. “It celebrates art and education, and that’s what this is all about.”

The production signals the opening of the district’s new Performing Arts Center, which has been under construction since June 2015. Although the 16,411-square-foot structure is on Pioneer Valley’s campus, it will serve as center stage for all the district’s performing arts productions.

The Performing Arts Center theater holds just fewer than 300 people, according to a school district press release from 2016, and the facility includes three classrooms, a stage, stage lights, and high quality acoustics. The center cost a total of about $9.6 million, funded by C2000 and 2004 bonds, which paid for construction, inspections, surveying, testing, architects, and materials.

But drama teacher Van Gronigen said construction was supposed to be finished last year. Casting was held for School of Rock in December of 2016, Van Gronigen said, with the expectation that the Performing Arts Center would be ready and open by show time in May 2017. But the opening was delayed, for reasons Van Gronigen said she is still unsure of, and the show was, too.

 “It was a huge disappointment,” Van Gronigen said. “We lost some of our best people.”

She said 25 percent of the original cast and crewmembers were seniors who had been looking forward to performing on a real stage for the first time. Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Public Information Officer Kenny Klein said the construction setbacks were in part due to final approvals from the Division of the State Architect, a time-consuming process that is routine for schools undergoing construction.

But the show must go on.

Van Gronigen said the recently emptied roles have been recast and rehearsals are in session. Daniel Geiger, a senior at Pioneer Valley, is cast as Jack Black’s wannabe rock star character, Dewey Finn, who leads a band of rebellious kids to the spotlight. Cleopatra Garcia will play Principal Mullins, a button-up administrator with a rock ’n’ roll past.

The opening night gala on Nov. 2 is invitation only, Van Gronigen said, but public performances will be held Nov. 3 through 5 at 7 p.m., and again Nov. 9 through 11. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. All profits go back to supporting Pioneer Valley’s performing arts programs.

Van Gronigen said many of her drama students were able to see School of Rock on Broadway during a trip to New York City last spring. The production is still relatively new, Van Gronigen said, and it was released to amateur theater companies before it debuted professionally.

“That never happens,” Van Gronigen said. “The idea is [the writers] wanted school groups to do this show.”

Van Gronigen said her students are looking forward to performing on an actual stage. For the 14 years she’s worked at Pioneer Valley, Van Gronigen said plays have been held in the drama classroom and the cafeteria, while the band performed in the gym and the choir at churches.

 “I mean, we’ve done some really great shows in the cafeteria and the classroom because the kids are so resourceful,” Van Gronigen said. “What I really love about the kids in Santa Maria is that they’re so creative about turning nothing into something.” m

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week’s School Scene. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at mail@santamariasun.com.

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