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updated: 8/17/2011 4:10 PM

Batavia High School's Fine Arts Centre to open Saturday

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  • Batavia Fine Arts Centre's lobby is located inside Batavia High School.

      Batavia Fine Arts Centre's lobby is located inside Batavia High School.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Another view of the Batavia Fine Arts Centre lobby, which opens to the public Saturday.

      Another view of the Batavia Fine Arts Centre lobby, which opens to the public Saturday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The auditorium of the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.

      The auditorium of the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The band and orchestra rehearse in the new Batavia Fine Arts Centre.

      The band and orchestra rehearse in the new Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


I graduated from Batavia High School in 1968. Although the old high school where I started in downtown Batavia had a stage, there wasn't enough money to include one in the new high school we all transferred to on Main Street.

Multiple school boards tried, without success, to get a referendum passed to add a theater.

A compromise was achieved by putting a stage in the cafeteria. The space onstage was so tight that student actors would have to line up in single file and maneuver their way through the set pieces to get onto the stage quickly. Sometimes, the audience had to put up with some strange smells that only a cafeteria can emit, and sometimes the chairs were a bit uncomfortable.

The directors taught the actors the play is judged not by the space but by the ability of the actors to work within a space.

Soon word got out that Batavia was the only high school within a 45-mile radius of Chicago, without an auditorium. The theater kids were upset and began sneaking in a line mocking the cafetorium at the Saturday night performance of every musical.

I only give you this history so that you will understand why it will be an emotional moment for many who sit in the new auditorium for the first time when the Batavia Fine Arts Centre opens to the public this Saturday night.

Billed as a Red Carpet Gala, the Fine Arts Centre opening is sponsored by the Batavia Chamber of Commerce and local businesses.

"We felt it was important to celebrate this tremendous visual and performing arts center" said Batavia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Roger Breisch. "And this space is drop dead gorgeous."

From the moment you walk into the new Batavia Fine Arts Centre, you see the attention to detail, from the beautiful courtyard that can be used for chamber music to the gallery space that will be a showcase for the visual arts. Open the doors to the auditorium and you see a full stage complete with trap doors, a hydraulic orchestra pit and adjustable sound panels that will be important for concerts.

"One of the reasons I said we needed to design a whole night for the community, is to showcase this theater to the people of Batavia," added Breisch. "This is so much more than a school theater."

In actuality, the Batavia Fine Arts Centre is a school theater, with roughly 80 percent of the committed dates in the 2011-12 season designated for elementary, middle school and high school events.

Talented children's theater groups, such as Rising Star Theater and Christian Youth Theater will also be putting up productions in the new theater this season. There are three professional entries on the calendar, including an author, a comedian and the critically acclaimed Navy Pier Shakespeare Theater troupe performing, "Taming of the Shrew."

Auditorium manager Dominic Cattero, a former BHS student, has been committed to making sure that this new space is designed properly. He has made sure that the theater has the latest in theater technology, including a digital sound board, and lighting technology, multiple screens for both background effects and audiovisual presentations.

There is also a black box theater with a sophisticated track system for the curtains that provides versatility in the space size.

Members of STAGE, the high school's theater support group will be conducting tours during the gala. Patrons will also be able to view silent auction items at this time. The schedule for the event begins at 6:15 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres and punch served in the courtyard and tours taking place in the center.

At 8:30 p.m., music and dance performances take the stage in the theater. At 9:30 p.m., dancing begins and dessert is served. At 11:00, the doors close. Black tie is optional.

If you are looking for a more family-oriented event, consider the Stock the Shop event from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28. Sponsored by STAGE, the event will benefit the scene shop at the theater.

Just shop at Batavia's Ace Hardware, today through Aug. 22, and purchase an item on the theater's wish list -- anything from a pair of gloves to a circular saw. You will receive a 10 percent discount.

Then bring the item to the celebration in the scene shop. Everyone who donates will have the opportunity to enjoy hot dogs, soft drinks, and snow cones. There will be face painting, makeup instructions, tours and the opportunity to enter drawings to win tickets for the Batavia High School fall musical, "Beauty and the Beast."

"In addition for the chance to win four tickets to the musical, one lucky person will win tickets to the musical along with the chance to have a special breakfast for two with Belle and the Beast," said STAGE board member Suzanne Heronemus.

Batavia has waited so long for this theater. Don't miss the either one of these opportunities to see it in all its glory.