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Showing its (st)age

High school's show to go on even though stage a big shaky

High school's show to go on even though stage a big shaky

December 27, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

The most pivotal part in Smithsburg High School's spring production of "Little Shop of Horrors" might not be the sadistic dentist or nebbish Seymour. That role might belong to the duct tape.

When asked whether the stage, which earlier this year was closed because of safety concerns, could pose any problems for students, drama teacher Ruth Hobson pointed to a bundle of poles bound together in front of the school's ragged curtains.

"Not as long as the duct tape stays on the curtain rods," Hobson said with a laugh.

In the fall, school system officials closed the stage due to concerns with the rigging. Rodney Turnbough, the school system's director of facilities management, said at the time that upgrades were necessary to bring the rigging up to code and respond to "life-safety issues," though he said he was not aware of failures or near-failures of the rigging.

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Turnbough said officials deemed the stage safe after closing it as a precaution in the fall.

"To my knowledge, it's safe for them to be there," Turnbough said Thursday.

Because of wiring problems, some lighting equipment is off-limits, he said.

On Dec. 19, during a break in auditions for the spring musical, Hobson pointed out areas where the stage's 40 years have begun to show.

"See all those cords going all everywhere, willy-nilly? That's very dangerous," Hobson said as she pointed to light cords stretched across the ceiling backstage.

Bare wires stick out of cords in the light room on the right side of the stage.

The dusty curtains are tattered and faded. Hobson said she took down some of the curtains, and she would remove all of them if she could.

As the father of a sophomore who is interested in acting, Steve White said he would like to see a "specific timetable" for repairs on the stage. He and his wife, Katie, were involved in theater through college, he said.

"I think we all maybe have some concerns (about the stage)," White said by phone Monday.

John White, 15, won a part in the chorus for the spring musical, which opens March 23, his father said.

The stage needs new rigging and lighting upgrades, Turnbough said.

"We need to replace the whole system, in effect," Turnbough said.

Turnbough said he is not sure how much the upgrades might cost, though he has suggested it could surpass $15,000 - the threshold at which the school system must collect competitive bids.

According to Turnbough, who met with rigging experts Dec. 15, school officials plan to replace the stage's original suspension equipment with new equipment that specifies weight limits.

The upgrades will ensure people on the stage know exactly what the equipment can bear, Turnbough said.

Turnbough has said he believes the work might not begin until after the musical, when the stage is clear.

"Unfortunately, it's not going to be completed in short order, and it's obviously disappointing to folks not to be able to use it right away," Turnbough said.

According to Hobson and Turnbough, the school system has again offered to pay for the rental of lighting equipment for the weekend of "Little Shop of Horrors."

For now, the show will go on.

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