Student puts Falmouth High School theater upgrade at center stage

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FALMOUTH — When Falmouth High School was built about 15 years ago, everything was state of the art.

But systems have aged and, in some cases, not kept up with the digital revolution.

That’s especially true in the 420-seat theater, which is why senior Jordan Bruce has made upgrading the space the focus of his senior project. He’s proposing a $95,000 investment in a multi-media system.

Bruce presented his project at a School Board workshop Feb. 6. He said members “seemed really positive about it,” but had concerns about the costs involved. So, the board asked him to come back with a plan for phased implementation.

The board members “asked a lot of questions and were engaged,” Bruce said. “There’s very clearly a need,” he added, “and the question was not if, but when and how,” this could happen.

It’s a graduation requirement at Falmouth High School for every senior to create a project that culminates the interests and education gained over their high school career.

Bruce is something of a tech expert and a member of the Tech Team at the high school. He’s also worked the sound board for a variety of school productions, from theater to band and choral concerts, as well as special events.

He’s also often pulled out of class by teachers or staff who need help with a technical issue. In addition, Bruce is editor of the yearbook and an outstanding tennis player, who won the state doubles title last year.

His hope is to somehow combine his technical prowess with business, and he’s weighing attending either Trinity University in Texas, the University of Miami or the University of Tulsa.

Bruce decided to focus his senior project on the theater because “I wanted to make a (lasting) improvement and make it a better place. My personal goal is to really push for it and hopefully make it happen. The theater could really use an upgrade.”

While the theater is already fairly heavily used, Bruce said it could be even more accessible and used as classroom space. For instance, he said with the modernization he’s proposing “all the biology classes could come in here to watch a movie together.”

Dan Wolotsky, the library media specialist and technology integrator at the high school, has been working with Bruce on the project. He agreed that, with the upgrades being proposed, the theater could be “even better utilized. By making the change we could have classes meeting there regularly. We could also produce a wide variety of media,” which could include livestreaming.

“We’ve known for some years that there’s a need (for upgrades) in the theater,” Wolsotsky said.

Both Wolotsky and Bruce said the projected cost of the upgrades represent a fair price “for what we would be getting.” And Wolotsky said the relatively high cost for the new equipment is partly due to all the “challenges involved in outfitting a room like this.”

“This is all about increasing the ability to use the theater as a study space, as well as the ability to make and share high-quality media,” Bruce said. “It’s a great space and we’re very lucky to have a theater at all, but these improvements would definitely make it one of the best” in the state.

Both Wolotsky and Bruce also said an important piece of the upgrade would be making sure the equipment is user-friendly, so anyone could use it.

“It should just be plug in and go,” Bruce said.

He understands the School Board’s concerns about the cost and, to that end, Bruce said he has already broken down his list of new components into the “bare minimum of what’s needed now” and what could come later.

The equipment that’s most needed, he said, are new center speakers at a cost of $11,000; new multidirectional microphones for $2,000, and a new HD projector for $8,000.

His overall goal is to install a reliable, modern system that meets the high expectations of today’s technology and would be accessible to those who have hearing issues. Bruce also wants to make it easy to record and livestream productions and presentations.

Other equipment Bruce would like to see installed includes a new screen for about $5,000; a new sound mixer for $3,000; and surround-sound and monitor speakers for $19,000. Installing all the new equipment, he said, would cost around $17,000.

As part of his project, Bruce has met with vendors to determine the best options. He’s also met with the high school’s theater and music teachers to determine what is most needed to modernize the space.

“It’s been quite a process,” Wolotsky said.

Bruce said the two biggest challenges have been “trying to get all the different people in the same room” to talk about the upgrades and “the speed at which government entities work.”

Falmouth High School is one of the host sites for this year’s Maine Drama Festival, which will take place in March, and Bruce said at the start of the school year it was his hope to have the new equipment in place in time for the festival.

Since that’s not going to happen, Bruce said success for him would be getting a commitment from school leaders, including the School Board, to “support (the theater) as a thriving spot.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Jordan Bruce, a senior at Falmouth High School, is promoting a $95,000 multi-media upgrade for the school theater.