Happy Valley School works to revitalize long-defunct stage

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 07:21 AM

Fifth-grade students at Happy Valley School stood under newly working spotlights on Thursday to perform the first full production held on the school’s stage in at least two decades.  

The performance of “Yes, Virginia,” a musical about a letter sent to a newspaper editor by a young girl in the 1890s, was the result of months of work and pages of grant proposals. The stage, a simple cinderblock-and-wood structure in the school’s gym, had not had working lights or sound for at least 20 years, but staff at Happy Valley are working to fix that.  

After using grant funding to get the stage’s lights, curtains and sound up and running again, Happy Valley will start a new program that allows each grade level to pick a foreign culture and immerse themselves in it, culminating in a yearly cultural fair – held, of course, on the stage.

“This community is already so traditional- and Appalachian-arts driven,” art teacher Melissa Jaroszewski said. “We’re kind of pulling that love of the arts and exposing them to other cultures.”

A $1,500 grant from Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. funded upgrades to the stage, and a grant from Macy’s funded royalty-free use of the “Yes, Virginia” script.

The stage’s floor lights, which are more than 60 years old, are now up and working. New sound equipment has been purchased, but there were a few hitches on Thursday – the new equipment isn’t working well with the old system, Jaroszewski said.

So more work on the sound equipment is the next step, and after that the school hopes to secure funding to purchase a curtain for the stage. It’ll likely be a three-year process of renovations, Jaroszewski said.

Having a fully functioning stage, ready for theatrical productions, is a chance for kids to be exposed to other cultures and for teachers to broaden the education kids are getting, Jaroszewski said.

“They need another outlet with the rigors of Common Core,” she said, referring to the new curriculum being implemented in North Carolina. “We’re so classroom-driven and content-driven that we forget the creative part and the socialization part and the teamwork part. That’s what theatre and using that stage is all about.”