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New WLHS building seats 600

by: Vern Uyetake, Teen thespian David Burke is elevated Monday evening during a rehearsal for West Linn High School’s upcoming play “Crazy For You.”  The new 600-seat auditorium is one of the areas featured in a dedication and open house Tuesday.

A full evening of entertainment awaits West Linn residents Tuesday at 6 p.m., when West Linn High School staff and students celebrate the opening of a new $21 million fine arts building and north wing.

Besides short speeches from the superintendent, board chair and principal, the evening includes an eight to 10-minute presentation showing construction of the facility from start to finish - a video edited and produced by teacher Gary Eppelsheimer.

The new facilities include a 600-seat auditorium boasting professional-theater technology, state-of-the-art acoustics, an orchestra pit and associated rooms for dressing and makeup as well as scene, costume and set preparation and storage. The theater also has a fly above its stage, a high ceiling where sets are hoisted and lowered when needed.

Also in the fine arts building are classrooms for instrumental and vocal music, practice rooms and a 100-seat black box theater where actors can be even more creative in dramatic productions.

A new kitchen, adjacent to two well-lighted commons areas, will support four venues where food is served at WLHS.

Additionally, a girls' locker room and three team locker rooms were added along with a training room, auxiliary gymnasium, dance room, weight room and laundry room as well as artificial turf for the stadium and baseball fields and new surfaces on four tennis courts.

Tuesday's event will include six demonstrations of the creative skills students are developing in the new spaces.

Included in those exhibitions will be instrumental music and singing, dance rehearsals, drama in the black box theater and on the big stage and a little physical activity in the new weight room.

While there may be six different demonstration areas to stop at, visitors will only have four time periods to witness use of the facilities. But the facilities will remain open as long as people stay, said Assistant Principal Rob Holstrom.

All of the new areas are state-of-the-art spaces, Holstrom said.

'In and around the auditorium, the technology alone is incredible,' Holstrom said. 'Our students are not only learning how to use all of that technology, but also they get to perform in spaces that are much better, acoustically.

Holstrom said the idea of having a home base to perform is appealing to everyone, especially since they have been more than two years without a home.

Jessica Murray, drama and dance instructor, said she is appreciative of the fact that she can teach in a 'passionate, arts-supportive community.'

'Our theater spaces allow us to give our students a theater experience unlike any other school in the state,' she said. 'Our tech students have the experience of working in a professional-caliber facility. And the dance students now have a gorgeous, spacious dance studio in which to rehearse and learn.'

Jeff Cumpston, band and orchestra instructor, said he is so excited about the new facilities because he remembers what it was like in the old music building.

'The old space had no ventilation or windows anywhere,' he said. 'It had unheated practice rooms, mold in the carpet and even an occasional cockroach.

'Obviously things have gone beyond improvement.'