When life gives you lemons…

The Field House space after students finished renovating it

What does a Theater Department do during a year where they have no theater and are in a global pandemic? It may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but not for Colorado Academy’s Theater Department. Our teachers and students have approached the predicament with joy, flexibility, and an extreme amount of creativity. They have taken a situation that might seem impossible and have made solutions that are downright brilliant.

Ry Barthels built a tool storage bench.

Take the Colorado Academy technical theater program for example, a pinnacle program at CA. How does a technical theater class continue when not building elaborate sets for a show? Chair of the Theater & Dance Department Steve Scherer has been teaching our students how to use power tools and build sets for the Froelicher Theatre stage for 26 years.

James Doolittle built rolling carts.

First, they needed a space to set up shop. The Athletic Department was kind enough to loan them a space in the back of the Field House, where they had consolidated some of their storage, leaving a completely empty room. Scherer saw the blank slate as an opportunity. He tasked the advanced level technical theater students with the job of designing the important and necessary functional features of the space. Who better to do this than Seniors Ry Barthels, James Doolittle, and Emmett Schlager?

SketchUp design for the moveable table built by Emmett Schlager

As advanced theater tech students, Ry, James, and Emmett knew what was needed in the shop in order for it to function effectively. They relied on their years of experience designing and building sets, and using SketchUp, they designed necessary components for the new space. Ry designed the classroom’s tool bench, James designed rolling carts that hold all their storage cabinets, and Emmett designed a moveable table that doubles as storage. After drafting multiple design iterations, all the MS and US technical theater students used the plans to build the shop furniture together as a group.

Work bench built by all three Seniors

At CA we try to create project-based learning and real world experiences. Scherer and his students have done just that this fall. As we all anxiously await the opening of the Leach Center for the Performing Arts, we will continue to make the most of our time together. Things might look different this year, but the learning never stops. Surprises have been coming out of 2020, left and right. We all just need a little creativity…when life gives you lemons.