PHS auditorium shut down for fire sprinkler replacement
by Jonathan Partridge | Patterson Irrigator
Feb 26, 2013 | 1222 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
02-26-13--jp-auditorium--From left, Teach, played by Patterson's Spencer Reza, has an intense conversation with Donny, played by Michael Hewitt of Turlock, during rehearsal for Patterson Repertory Theatre's upcoming production of "American Buffalo" in Apricot Valley Elementary School's Multipurpose Room. The Patterson Joint Unified School District found the space for the theater company after last week's showings of the play, scheduled to take place in Patterson High School's Clara Johnson Memorial Auditorium, were canceled. The Patterson Fire Department determined that corroded fire sprinklers inside the high school auditorium needed to be replaced .--Photo by Jonathan Partridge/Patterson Irrigator
02-26-13--jp-auditorium--From left, Teach, played by Patterson's Spencer Reza, has an intense conversation with Donny, played by Michael Hewitt of Turlock, during rehearsal for Patterson Repertory Theatre's upcoming production of "American Buffalo" in Apricot Valley Elementary School's Multipurpose Room. The Patterson Joint Unified School District found the space for the theater company after last week's showings of the play, scheduled to take place in Patterson High School's Clara Johnson Memorial Auditorium, were canceled. The Patterson Fire Department determined that corroded fire sprinklers inside the high school auditorium needed to be replaced .--Photo by Jonathan Partridge/Patterson Irrigator
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At a Glance

Patterson Rep’s ‘American Buffalo’

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday

WHERE: Apricot Valley Elementary School Multiuse Room, 1320 Henley Parkway

DETAILS: This play has strong language, and parental guidance is advised for those younger than 17. More details about the play can be found online at www.pattersonirrigator.com.

COST: $10 for general admission, $8 for those younger than 18 or older than 65.

INFO: 499-9363, pattersonrepertory@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/pattersonrep

Clara Johnson Memorial Auditorium at Patterson High School was temporarily shuttered last week after the fire department notified the school district Thursday, Feb. 21, that fire sprinklers were corroded and needed to be fixed.

The closure forced Patterson Repertory Theatre to cancel its opening weekend of the David Mamet play “American Buffalo.” Instead, Patterson Joint Unified School District is allowing the theater group to stage its play at Apricot Valley Elementary School this week.

Tori Scoles, a cofounder of the repertory theater troupe and a drama teacher at Patterson High School, said it will likely be at least a month or two before the reopening of the auditorium, which is used for various school programs and community productions.

“I hope it’s open before the end of the school year,” Scoles said Tuesday, Feb. 26, during a rehearsal of “American Buffalo” at Apricot Valley.

A Patterson Fire Department fire prevention specialist, Carrie Silveira, inspected the auditorium this month and found corroded sprinklers attached to corroded pipes and broken valves, Chief Steve Hall said Feb. 21.

“It’s not common, but when we do find these, they have to be fixed right away,” Hall said.

If the theater company were to use the auditorium before the sprinklers were repaired, it would need to have a “fire watch” security guard on duty, he said.

That would require someone to look after the building around the clock, said Steve Menge, Patterson Joint Unified School District assistant superintendent of administrative services.

Menge said the school district is working with the fire marshal to resolve the problem, but the cost of replacing the sprinklers is unknown.

“There’s nothing unsafe about the building,” Menge said. “It’s just a system that has lived beyond its means.”

He said the sprinkler system, which is inspected by the fire department every five years, may be as old as the 75-year-old auditorium itself.

The federal Works Progress Administration built the high school auditorium in 1938. Renovations were completed in 1979.

For now, Scoles’ drama students are rehearsing in her classroom. She said she spent time this week correcting false rumors among students that the auditorium was filled with rats, rabid squirrels or even ghosts.

“(The drama students) feel like they’ve been kicked out of their home,” Scoles said.

The closure of the auditorium also prompted Patterson Repertory Youth Theatre to change its rehearsal venue for an upcoming production of “Story Stew: A Fairy Tale Review.”

Likewise, the cast of “American Buffalo” moved rehearsals to the home shared by Scoles and her roommate and former Patterson Repertory Theatre cofounder Colton Dennis, and to Apricot Valley Elementary School.

Director Joshua Morriston said the thrust of “American Buffalo” is the play’s gritty yet poetic dialogue. Because actors do not frequently move on and off the stage, he said it was relatively easy to transfer the play to another venue.

“Theater is all about overcoming the obstacles,” Morriston said.

Repertory theater members expressed gratitude on the Patterson Rep Facebook page for the efforts of the school district to resolve the problem and provide venues for the group’s plays.

“We are very grateful that they see the need for the arts in our community!” the group stated.

Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or jonathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

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