Community must rally around auditorium
Feb 28, 2013 | 1300 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patterson Repertory Theatre members were understandably in shock last week after run-down fire sprinklers inside Clara Johnson Memorial Auditorium prompted the cancellation of their opening-weekend production of “American Buffalo.”

But it seems such an occurrence was only a matter of time.

The auditorium, built in the late 1930s by the federal Works Progress Administration, is nearly 75 years old, and Patterson Joint Unified School District administrators believe its fire sprinklers might be as old as the building itself.

It could be shut down for a couple of months or more as the district replaces those sprinklers to comply with fire codes.

No one is at fault in this matter. Old structures naturally decay with time.

And the school district should be commended for its quick work in finding another venue for Patterson Repertory Theatre and other groups to use while the auditorium is closed.

At the same time, it’s appropriate to start thinking of projects at the auditorium that need to be completed in the future, such as repairing seating and making the stage accessible to people with disabilities.

The building was most recently renovated 22 years ago, though new lights and heating and air conditioning units have been installed since that time.

A new overhaul of the auditorium would require a community effort, similar to the renovation of Patterson Community Stadium in 2007. It would require volunteer hours and volunteer funding from residents who are passionate about the arts.

Like the stadium, the auditorium has been used by several different groups in Patterson. Those include the high school music and drama programs, the repertory theater, local dance studios and scholarship events. All of these groups have a stake in the auditorium, and all of them could contribute to the cause.

Such a campaign would honor the legacy of the late Clara Johnson, for whom the auditorium was named last year. Johnson, a retired Patterson High School secretary and school district employee, sought funds to refurbish the auditorium after it fell into disrepair.

The auditorium has served Patterson well over the years, and it’s essential that this community does what it can to ensure that it continues to do so in the years to come.
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