A three-story tower marks a new performing arts center at Irmo High that school officials say symbolizes an increased focus on such instruction.
Students will celebrate the center’s debut with shows this weekend in a state-of-the-art facility with features that many local theaters dream of having.
Principal David Riegel described the 600-seat center as “a learning laboratory” that will enhance instruction in work backstage as well as the theater, dance, music and other creative efforts that are applauded by audiences.
Features such as lights that can project scenery, a large stage and a design that projects sound without microphones are the equivalent of what professionals use, he said.
“I can’t wait to use it,” theater teacher Lyle Browne said. “With this, we’ll be able to do more.”
The center has been a 30-year-old goal in the making. It will allow school arts groups to end use of a cafeteria and gymnasium that has been ill-equipped for performances.
Lexington-Richland 5 officials made the center happen through a $243.6 million package of school improvements authorized by voters in 2008.
That commitment came despite complaints from some conservatives and homeowners that the facility is an extravagance.
Four small performances in December let students know what’s possible as finishing touches were being put on the center.
“It’s great having our own space,” said Rachel Thomas, a senior. “Now we have an area especially for us.”
The center’s glassed-in lobby decorated in tones of black and gold – colors of the school’s Yellow Jacket mascot – plays multiple roles. It serves as a welcome area for audiences, an art gallery for student work and a connection for parts of the campus formerly separated.
Riegel calls it the school’s “Main Street” that many of the 1,500 students travel daily.