By CONNIE and LYNN BAER
This month, Grossmont High School is excited about the completion of its new Event Center building which includes a 475 seat auditorium, dance studio, choral studios, digital music classroom, and new “black box” theater. The Event Center will also include scene shop classrooms, a green room, dressing rooms, restrooms, and other support spaces. The project emphasizes multi-functionality, with indoor and outdoor learning and gathering spaces. The Event Center will provide a modern new venue for school, district, and community performances, meetings, and events.
Performing Arts Department chair Amity Eckert shares, “We are thrilled! I see us working interdepartmentally to create meaningful and collaborative performances. Students will also now be able to expand their knowledge of technical theatre, particularly with regard to technology so they will have real world experience in a state of the art theatre space.”
Since 1920, Grossmont High School has valued performing arts as an essential part of a student’s education. In April 1921, for two nights, the senior class play “All of a Sudden Peggy” was performed by a cast of 11 students. Interestingly, one performance was given in Lakeside and one in La Mesa. In its second year, in the spring 1922, two plays were performed, one by juniors and one by seniors. Also, that year, 17 Foothillers enrolled in orchestra and 18 students enrolled in Boys and Girls Glee Club.
Unbelievably, there was a real auditorium and stage in the 1922 original school building, the north wing of the original school. The theater entrance was through the iconic double doors at the front of the school. Located at the end of the hallway, the theater’s stage had an apron with dressing rooms in the back, as well as devices to raise and lower the scenery. There was also a balcony with a projection room for lights.
In 1936, as part of the WPA funded construction on campus, the north wing of the school was demolished and rebuilt as a two-story classroom building with classrooms for English and business, later called the “Old Main.” The new auditorium-gymnasium (now called the Old Gym) was completed in 1937. However, over the next eight decades, it was increasingly obvious that it was more of a gym than a theater, yet large productions such as the annual Christmas Pageant and musicals took place there, collaborative projects within the Performing Arts Department.
In 1937, drama classes moved to the second floor of the new north wing at the end of the hall, where the space quickly became known as the “Little Theater” with more intimate performances being held there. In 1941, the music building, attached to the back of the Old Gym, was finished. Sometime in the 1940s, the drama department moved into the new building, and the Little Theater continued its role as a home for classes, rehearsals, and performances from “Diary of Anne Frank,” “Hamlet,” “Go Ask Alice” to “Evenings of One Act Plays.” For decades, above the door hung a sign welcoming students to the “Little Theater.” The sign will be displayed as wall art in the new theater as a reminder of the incredible memories created inside the Little Theater.
Principal Dan Barnes reflects, “I am very proud of our Performing Arts department, one that dates back to our beginning in 1920 and that continues to be a very successful program full of talented people. This beautiful and modern venue will showcase our talented performing arts students. The Events Center provides a state-of-the-art facility which will bring together our dance, choral, digital music, and drama programs in a central location designed to promote student collaboration and interaction among all our performing arts programs.”
Become part of our historic campus
In honor of our historic “100 Years of Excellence Celebration,” the GHS Educational Foundation is sponsoring a scholarship fundraising program. Donors to the $100 dollars for 100 Years program will have their names, their families’, or their businesses’ names engraved on 2-by-4-inch gray tiles, which will be displayed on a wall near the front of the school.
In June 2020, the Foundation awarded $6,500 in senior scholarships; our goal is to dramatically increase that amount in the future.
Visit the GHS Educational Foundation website at foothillerfoundation.com, and on the “Tile Projects” pages, you may order your tile using the gold donate button. Or write a check payable to GHS Educational Foundation and mail to GHS Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 1043, La Mesa, CA 91944. On the check memo, please indicate “scholarship fund” and include the text of your tile with your check (up to three lines, 20 spaces each).
To learn more about GHS, past and present, visit the GHS Museum website at foothillermuseum.com. Due to the coronavirus and our continuing move into our larger museum space, the GHS Museum is currently closed, but we are checking our emails at firstname.lastname@example.org and our phone messages at 619-668-6140.
— Connie and Lynn Bare write on behalf of the GHS Museum.