The school’s auditorium and bell tower were built in 1926 and are an Orange County historic site. The auditorium was one of the first building on the campus.
“You know what, I wish these walls could talk,” Batte said. “The stories they could tell.”
During the renovation, the theater’s original 1926 archway was discovered as crews were digging into it, Batte said. The archway and ceiling were restored to their original state. The 600-seat auditorium was fitted with new seats, and its 10 cast-iron chandeliers were restored. Ramps and passenger lifts were added, and two rooms in the front lobby were fixed up to use as a classroom. The school is still waiting for the new sound and lighting systems, which are expected to be installed next month, Batte said.
The auditorium is mainly used by the Academy for the Performing Arts, a Huntington Beach Union High School District magnet school. The academy has about 600 students who put on 12 main-stage performances in the theater yearly, Batte said.
While the theater has been out of commission for two years, students have been using the Westminster Rose Center, but 17-year-old Carly Manno, a technical theater student, said she is excited to finally get to work in the theater and use the performing arts classrooms.
“It’s a lot bigger. There is a lot more room,” Carly said.
The new performing arts facility gives the school a new black-box theater, two additional dance rooms and new dressing rooms. The black-box theater provides the students with a more intimate space to do any kind of performance and features a tension-wire grid ceiling, Batte said.
“It’s the latest technology,” Batte said. “It’s basically what’s being put into theaters now.”
The construction, which also includes a courtyard and an outdoor amphitheater, was done by McCarthy Building Companies Inc.
The reopening celebration is planned for Oct. 17 and will coincide with the academy’s debut of a musical about the Titanic, Batte said.