Potential shared theatre gets rave reviews

Okotoks: Town, school division gives thumbs up to modernization

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am

Foothills Composite High School student Shelby Salt stands on stage to do a sound check prior to the opening night of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Okotoks and Foothills School Division officials are still hopeful a new theatre can be built at the school.
Foothills Composite High School student Shelby Salt stands on stage to do a sound check prior to the opening night of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Okotoks and Foothills School Division officials are still hopeful a new theatre can be built at the school.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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The provincial government may have spelled out a solution to achieving one of the Town of Okotoks’ priorities.

After watching the opening of Foothills/Alberta High School of Fine Arts’ musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on Feb. 5, Premier Alison Redford announced a $28-million remodernization of the school, which may also include upgrades to its performing arts theatre.

A performing arts centre happens to be on the Town of Okotoks’ priority list.

Mayor Bill Robertson said it would be a natural fit.

“I would support that, but it would all come down to timing and the support of council,” Robertson said at Redford’s announcement at Foothills Composite High School.

Foothills Composite is the home of the Alberta High School Fine Arts program, which provides programs involving music, dance, art and theatre. The program attracts talented students from not only the foothills, but throughout southern Alberta.

If built at the high school, Robertson said the proposed facility would mainly be used during the day by the school and other groups have events at night.

It would help solve issues such as parking — as well as the complicated issue of council trying to find a location for a performing arts centre.

“It would be a win-win because all the services are all here now,” Robertson said. “If we choose a raw site, we would have to provide all the services too.”

There is already precedence for the sharing of the facility. The Town recently used the area for an open house for its proposed annexation.

As well, the Town and the Foothills School Division have an agreement to share facilities for such things as community volleyball, soccer, dance and other activities.

Drew Chipman, division assistant superintendent-corporate services, said there will be upgrades to the performing arts facilities.

However, it has yet to be determined what those changes will be. He stressed the division is more than willing to work with the Town in sharing any facility.

“We were involved in the (performing arts) review (the Town) has done and the high school site was one of two possibilities of that study,” Chipman said. “We have approached the Town and we will continue to talk to the Town to see if that decision can be made quicker. The potential is there, but it’s ultimately up to the Town.”

Superintendent of Schools Del Litke applauds the idea of a shared venue.

“We are very, very open to that possibility,” Litke said. “We would serve the community well, and we would be serving the kids well.”

Foothills/School of Fine Arts teacher James Keary is excited about any upgrades to the performing arts stage area.

“We have heights restrictions on our stage so that keeps us limited to what we could do,” said Keary, the producer of school’s current musical production. “If we could heighten the stage, we could open up the area so we could have in-house sitting, that would be huge for us.”

He said he does not anticipate getting a new theatre, but there are ways to create more space for the facility.

“We make do with this space and we are very fortunate with what we have,” Keary said. “But we are limited to our in-house capacity. Any one night the most seats we have are about 180. There are some nights we can fill up twice that.

“That means a decrease in the amount of revenue we make on our show.”

He said he would be willing to share the facility with the Town of Okotoks.


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