Letters to the Editor: October 18 – 24, 2018
Shame if New School Isn’t As Versatile, Capable as Old
I was the technical stage director at George Mason from 1981 until my retirement last year. I worked every production that our school and surrounding community put on in that auditorium, as well as used that space for a surprising range of unusual projects, such as practice fields for our robotics team and the IB Art show. I have an intimate knowledge of every corner, high and low, having been responsible for its upkeep and improvement. I loved working in that flexible and versatile environment, and can attest to how important an asset our fly rigging system has been for generations of students.
The rigging system our auditorium enjoys allowed our students to plan and act much more ambitiously than if we had a “cafetorium” type of stage. This counter-balanced set of bars, cables and ropes allows a very dynamic approach to positioning lighting instruments, sound equipment, curtains, and set pieces. Our catwalk that is above the stage allows the stage crew to sprinkle snow on a Nutcracker ballet or work some such other special effect.
High school productions are often squeezed into a limited timeframe. The school’s calendar of events is often determined by when things can be scheduled in our auditorium. The turnaround time is important, often requiring a complete repositioning of lighting and curtain configurations. This can only be done because of our ability to raise and lower batten bars and electrics quickly and safely.
We never had a serious accident in the 37 years I worked and played in that rigging. A whole lot of students learned a love of stagecraft by working in this versatile facility. We have always been proud of what we could create and build in this room, and the ability to raise and lower, suspend and position is a considerable asset.
It would be a shame if our new school building was not at least as versatile and capable as the one we currently have. A school can be ambitious if the workspace allows productions to be installed in a manner that is quick, adjustable and safe. Admittedly, it does require management and supervision to maintain a rigging system, just like any specialized work area or gym.
I really hope the new auditorium will allow as rich an experience for students, teachers and our community as we have enjoyed in the past, keeping in mind the flexibility and efficiency that a theatrical rigging system allows.
George Mason High School, ret.
Fly Loft Article Source Incorrectly Identified
In the article, “Key Theater Pros Sign Petition for Fly Loft at New George Mason High School” (News-Press, Oct. 11, 2018), Cecily Shea was incorrectly identified as the source of remarks regarding what Superintendent Noonan said about potential insurance issues surrounding the inclusion of a fly-loft system in the new high school. In addition, the paraphrasing in the article does not accurately reflect the comments by someone else about Superintendent Noonan’s remarks. What was said was a restatement of the public comments he has made about the fly-loft and did not specify that the “…school’s insurer said it could not insure it….”
In a letter to the Falls Church City Public Schools community, Dr. Noonan stated, “We recently did an analysis of the benefits and concerns about a fly loft system and discovered through our research that as much as we would like a fly loft, there are inherent dangers. In fact, our own Virginia Department of Education construction specification strongly discourages schools from building them, and our insurance carrier Virginia Municipal League (VML) is urging us not to as well. In fact, VML recently told us the following in an email: ‘…given the dangers involved there is a chance that should a student be injured there is a potential case for this injury to be labeled as gross negligence which would remove any immunity the school system might otherwise enjoy.’”
Cecily Shea, Hal Lippman
Shocked New School Plans Don’t Include Fly System
As a resident of Falls Church City, parent of three children in the school system, and a local actor, I am shocked to learn that the theater at our brand new state of the art High School will not include a fly system. Quality arts education is just as important as STEM, if not more so. The arts teach children to embrace creativity, be bold, challenge the status quo, and express themselves. And while any good actor will tell you they don’t need a fancy stage and equipment to perform, it certainly does help. We wouldn’t dream of building a less than adequate science lab or gymnasium…why would we do so for our arts programs? We shouldn’t. Give the kids (and the community) the world class theater they deserve. Maybe one day one of those kids will win a Tony and thank us.
A ‘War on Cars’ Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Thing
Recent submissions have opined that the City of Falls Church has declared a war on cars. The presumption is that this is a bad thing. One reader even had the audacity to single out the intersection of W. Columbia and N. Maple Ave., which has been bumped out to allow pedestrians a safer passage. That intersection is a block from both a Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Mount Daniel Elementary bus stop, as well as the Columbia Baptist child care center and preschool.
As a neighbor, resident, and mother of two whose daughter and son walk to the bus stop every day, I challenge drivers to put their convenience above our children’s safety. Need proof? A neighbor’s 10-year old was nearly run over by a car as she was crossing the intersection of N. Maple and Great Falls St. on one morning walking to that bus stop. Getting to school should not be a life-threatening event, and if drivers are upset with the pedestrian safety standards in our Little City, they should consider relocating to LA where driving is a priority.
Let’s keep the walkers, runners and bike riders, and the city managers who recognize the value of our children, pedestrians and environment by slowing down reckless drivers and making our streets safe for everyone.
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