Beloved Snohomish High arts center to be torn down

  • Tue Apr 27th, 2010 10:32pm
  • News

By Eric Stevick Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — As a child, George Price played on a tennis court that is now beneath the Performing Arts Center at Snohomish High School.

As the Snohomish School District’s operations director, he watched with keen interest as the large auditorium opened in 1973.

Like a lot of other unsuspecting and initially reluctant locals, Price was recruited to perform on the vast wooden stage with a community vaudeville group. And he sat proudly in the audience as first his son, Jim, and then his granddaughter, Kelly, took their turns in band concerts beneath the theater’s lights.

“It’s a good-feeling building,” Price said. “It was well used by the community.”

Later this week, the plush red velvet curtains will fall a last time on “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” the final high school drama production in the building.

The Performing Arts Center will be demolished this summer and a state-of-the-art 500-seat theater will be built in its place. It is part of a $261 million bond voters approved in 2008.

There will be a band concert and a community variety show in the final weeks, but for many students involved in theater arts, this week will be the final bow.

Students, teachers, alumni and residents might feel a nostalgic tug for the theater, but it’s tempered with the knowledge that its replacement will have much better sound and greater flexibility.

“We do the best with what we have,” said Elizabeth Janzen, a senior who is conducting the orchestra for the musical.

Some actors can’t help thinking about the building’s legacy.

“You can’t help thinking about all the people who performed in here,” said Nathan Profitt, a sophomore. “We get a chance to finish it off right.“

Years from now, Profitt will get to reminisce about “the old PAC” with his older sister, Cecelia, a Snohomish High senior who is directing the play, and his younger brother, Jacob, who also is in the cast.

“We’ll definitely have memories,” Cecelia said.

Tom Lafferty said he was a Snohomish High sophomore in the choir that performed at the PAC’s grand opening in March 1973. He has spent countless hours in the PAC since then as a student, a volunteer sound board operator for the school choir for 25 years and as a member of a community theater group that stages a variety show each May.

By his reckoning, the local group will have notched 132 performances in the PAC since it formed in 1979.

Eleanor Leight, 88, who performed as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette in the 1940s, once again will direct the community variety show in May that includes a cast and crew of about 100. It features a little bit of everything, including dogs playing musical chairs, an Elvis Presley impersonator, an opera singer and dozens of dancers.

“We have been happy there but I think we are looking forward to a more modern building,” she said. Lafferty said it has been a great building to perform in but he, too, is ready for the new building.

“It’s not historic-historic,” he said. “It’s not the Seattle Paramount or the Roman Coliseum. It’s a nearly 40-year-old school building that was built kind of on the cheap.”

Jim Price, George’s son and a Snohomish High graduate, is project manager for the high school renovation. He remembers fondly playing drums with the jazz band and choir in the Performing Arts Center where his future wife played the flute.

Price said the students and the community will be better served by the new building, which will be much like the performing arts center at the new Glacier Peak High School.

“We are raising the bar and really putting a first-class facility into the community,” he said.

Memorabilia from the old building — perhaps part of the crimson curtain and stage floor — could be displayed in the new performing arts center.

“We are studying those options and we understand the community’s interest” in preserving memories, he said.

See the show

The final three shows of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are sold at the door; prices are $12 general admission, $10 for students with a district ASB card and $8 for seniors and children. All proceeds benefit Snohomish High’s drama program.