The theater plays a vital part of school life at Byram Hills High School.
It’s a space where music and theater students thrive, a place that for many becomes a safe haven.
It’s also a venue that all high school students come to know well. Early on, freshmen participate in grade-level activities in the theater, and as seniors, students enter the space one last time as a class to practice for graduation.
During the years in between, students regularly fill the centrally located auditorium for music and theater performances, special events with guest speakers and panel discussions, and important school assemblies. More than 60 evening events are held there each year.
Now, for the first time since the school opened in 1966, the theater has undergone a renovation that boasts state-of-the- art upgrades, improvements that benefit performers, theater tech students and audience members.
“It looks spectacular,” Principal Christopher Walsh said. “This has been over 52 years in the making. Our kids deserve to have a space that is up to 21stcentury speed.”
The modernization project began in late June and was completed in the fall, just in time for the November production of “Twelfth Night.” A grand reopening ceremony was held in December with a ribbon cutting and a performance by the jazz choir before the annual “Byram’s Got Talent” event.
The renovation brought improvements to the seating, sound quality, lighting and equipment.
“We are so excited that the students of Byram Hills High School now have a state-of-the-art theater where they can display all of the learning that takes place in the arts classrooms,” said Deepak Marwah, the district’s director of fine arts.
The upgrades largely involved the audience portion of the theater, which previously lacked a center aisle.
With a new seating configuration that features two inner aisles, the theater complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it is easier to get in and out of the seats. The theater received all new, more comfortable seats, and the aisles are lined with floor lighting for safety.
There is a beautiful slat wood ceiling, and the overhead house lighting now uses long-lasting LED bulbs. Gone is the much-maligned carpet that covered the theater’s side walls; today they feature accent lights that can display any color to envelop the audience in the mood of the show.
A vibrant red curtain now graces the stage, replacing an older blue one. The front row, which used to be too close for comfort, has been moved back, and space for wheelchairs has been made at the front of the theater.
There is a new sound and lighting control area at the rear of the theater, bringing students out of the old booth and closer to the action.
The sound quality has been much improved with the addition of acoustic panels built into the theater’s rear and side walls and into the flooring, and the theater doors have been soundproofed.
“Music students now have a performance hall where they can better hear both themselves and each other to create a blend that is even more pleasing to audience members,” Mr. Marwah said. “Theater tech students now have the opportunity to work with updated equipment and call each show from a modernized lighting and sound booth.”
The events held in the theater enrich the education of all students, and the renovations enhance their experiences in this prominent space.
“Between the time students get here and the time they leave Byram Hills, there are so many opportunities for them to utilize that great space,” Mr. Walsh said.
“It’s very important to us to have the theater,” he said. “It allows us to achieve the district’s mission of making sure our kids are productive and responsible citizens as they leave our district.”