Photo by Joe Boyle
The state-of-the-art Oak Lawn Community High Performance Arts Center officially opened to the public on Sunday afternoon. The theater seats 630 and includes an orchestra pit, scene shop, two dressing rooms and a studio theater.
By Joe Boyle
Mike Riordan, superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School District 229, recalls when the groundbreaking ceremony for the high school’s Performing Arts Center took place in a steady drizzle.
“It was on May 24, 2017 that the groundbreaking ceremony took place,” Riordan told a large crowd at the grand opening of the Oak Lawn Community High School Performing Arts Center on Sunday afternoon. “Many people here played an important role to get us where we are today.”
After years of planning and discussion, the state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center was greeted warmly by alumni, current students and faculty, parents, community leaders and local public officials. The facility offers 630 seats, a scene shop, an orchestra pit, and two dressing rooms behind the vast stage. A studio theater is part of the center, along with a 65-foot tall fly tower.
The end result is a modern arts center for the award-winning theater and speech programs at Oak Lawn Community High School, 9400 Southwest Highway.
“This is just a wonderful place,” said Joseph McCurdy, who has served for many years as Oak Lawn High’s assistant principal and is now the assistant superintendent of School District 229. “The whole idea of this is to have a modern building that these kids deserve. Now we could hold the sectionals right here. This will just enhance the whole program.”
The theater will also allow for a functional rigging system to go along with the fly tower. In addition to the facility itself, a state-of-the-art orchestra shell was included in the project. Gone are the days of converting gyms into performance spaces.
“After many years of preparation and planning, and with the support of the Board of Education and the District 229 community, I am excited to see this dream become a reality,” Riordan said. “Our fine arts students and staff have demonstrated their commitment to excellence for many years, and with this beautiful new Performing Arts Center, they will be able to achieve at greater heights.”
Marcus Wargin, who has long been affiliated with the theater program at Oak Lawn High School and now serves as the school’s assistant principal, is impressed with the new surroundings.
“This is just really great,” Wargin said. “There are so many people to thank and so many people that have been involved in the program. This is for our alumni who did great things for many years and the current students. This is about where we came from and where we will be for years to come.”
Along with the theater and speech programs, the high school band will also perform and practice at the new structure. Guitar practice will also take place in the center. National Honor Society inductions will also take place at the new center, along with other activities.
A variety of events were held at the grand opening, including an alumni performance, a vocal jazz number, a performance by the band, and the cast of “Chicago” performing “All That Jazz.” Performances of “Chicago” will be the first event held at the Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. today (Thursday, Nov. 1), Friday, Nov. 2, and Saturday, Nov. 3.
Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury were invited to speak at the grand opening. Other local officials who attended the event were Oak Lawn Village Clerk Jane Quinlan and trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Terry Vorderer (4th).
“This is just a great place that the school deserves,” Lipinski said. “I look forward to coming here many more times in the future.”
“I want to thank all the people who started this project,” Bury said. “This is huge and can be a little frightening to take this on. We can hardly wait to see the magic that will take place here. This is just awesome.”
Along with the completion of the 18-month project included renovations to the athletic facilities, which includes eight new tennis courts at the north end of the school property. Three shot put and two discuss competition areas have been added. Water retention improvements were made to accommodate the project and future campus improvements.
This is the second performing arts center to open at an Oak Lawn high school in the past two months. The Richards High School Performing Arts Center was unveiled on Sept. 17.