When my teacher assigned my class an innovation project, I was completely lost. Innovate? What was I, a 17 year old high schooler, going to innovate? To me, innovation was for people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein. Who was I to stand among these giants?
Then again, Who was I not to stand among them? I was cutting myself short before I had even tried to come up with an idea. I was quitting before the race had even started. So when my friend told me her idea to build a brand new auditorium for our high school, which has never had a functional stage or auditorium, I jumped on board immediately. Yes, the project was huge and had the potential to cost millions of dollars, but it also had the potential to do something incredible: for the arts, community, and the students. I wanted to be a part of that vision and process, no matter how big and ridiculous it was. I wanted to inspire meaningful change: and so our innovation project was born.
Step One: Getting Started
The first step in the process was finding the major flaws with our current resources and trying to come up with simple yet realistic solutions. Here is a picture of the current state of our bowl. Used for assemblies and a place for students to eat at lunch, it leaves a lot to be desired as a venue to hold performances, and falls short by a large margin for use as a functional stage.
With no speakers, lighting, or over head cover, it fails to provide even the most basic necessities for a decent theater production or concert. Speakers and lights have to be hauled in at great expense to the school every time an arts department wants to hold a concert on campus. The acoustics are practically non-existent, and the seating consists of uncomfortable wooden benches that can only seat a small percentage of the school. Also the stage is too small, and without a cover the entire area is useless in the rain.
Clearly we had a lot of problems to consider, and fix. We knew that if we wanted the school board to even consider building a new auditorium we would have to come up with a design and plan that was fool proof.
Step Two: Making a Plan
We approached the problem of the bowl realistically. While we knew it wasn’t feasible to carry out the entire funding, construction and opening of an auditorium in just one school year, we realized we could do a lot to get the project up and running. We decided to create a design, spread awareness of our project through a video, and present our plan to the school board. We made deadlines, and scheduled meetings with people who would help and support our ideas, like the band or theatre directors.
As a first step in the designing process, we even took out our measuring tools, and measured the bowl . We hope we could provide the measurements to professionals who could help us create a design.
Step Three: The Design (In Progress)
We were not architects or acoustical engineers, but we had a vision for the bowl and what it could be. The idea was to double the size of the stage, cover it with a dome, establish permanent outdoor lighting and sound, add a green room in the back and install a waterproof tent. This would allow the bowl to be used even when it was raining and provide a unique and attractive venue for all of the art departments: including theatre, dance, orchestra and choir.
We looked towards incredible venues like the Hollywood Bowl for inspiration, and constantly asked ourselves questions. Would the seating need to be raised? Was it feasible to establish a permanent outdoor sound system? How would a waterproof cover be installed? With many questions, and seeking guidances we sought out the help of the school’s orchestra and band director. As a teacher and performer, he had many useful ideas for the bowl’s improvement. Most significant however, were his connections with a Disneyland imagineer who could help us get a real-life rendering of the auditorium we were considering. Though the design has some flaws, and is still unfinished, this rendering is a major step in the right direction.
Step Four: Sharing (In Progress)
Finally, we began filming students and teachers and asking their opinions about our project. How would a new stage impact the arts at FVHS? What would it mean for the community? The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to finishing a video that will highlight how a stage will benefit the school and community. More importantly we hope it reveals how a new auditorium will inspire the students as artists, musicians and performers.
If you’ve ever been to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl you know it’s a magical experience. The historic “Hollywood” sign can be seen from any seat in the auditorium, the natural acoustics are incredible and the music speaks to your soul. Unless you are deaf, or hate music, you leave enchanted every time.
Though the outdoor auditorium at our school will certainly not be the Hollywood Bowl, it has the potential to inspire that same kind of magic for both its performers and audience. That is the ultimate vision for this project, to create a permanent place for the arts to thrive. Though the design is not yet finished, and we still have many more obstacles to overcome, we are heading in the right direction. Though we are starting small, we are not afraid to think big. We are just a group of high schoolers, but we have the power to make an impact. ~