Performing arts to get extended space

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  • Photos Courtesy of Jesse Barron. Renderings provided to the Board of Education at the Facilities Study Session on November 9, 2021. Renderings are conceptual and subject to change.

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Irvine High School broke ground on their plan to build a new performing arts complex with a parking lot replacement project that began on January 3, 2022.

The new, 650-seated complex will be located between the current performing arts theater and the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center. The current theater will be kept, providing the performing arts and tech-theater classes with additional space.

“We have definitely outgrown [the current theater] with regards to the performances not only with the number of participants we have involved in our performing arts but also in regards to capacity,” principal Monica Colunga said. “It served its purpose and we are excited about being able to keep it… But we are way too excited about getting a state of the art updated performing arts center.”

The original theater building was constructed in 1976 and offers roughly 7,000 square feet of space. The new complex is approximately 24,000 square feet, providing over three times the size and over double the capacity for audience seats.

“We love our little theater, but it’s problematic in capacity,” choral teacher Tina Peterson said. “Our capacity is less than 300, and our audiences are larger than that. That forces us to have multiple concerts, which is challenging for the students to have to be out more than one night in the middle of the week.”

The performing arts complex includes modern features such as a black box, scene shops, dressing rooms, a tech floor level, acoustical shells and theatrical lighting. The design of the theater incorporates linear patterns on the exterior of the building to replicate Irvine High’s existing geometric patterns. During the design process, a professional architect is hired and they stay in constant communication with the school-site design committee.

“We design high schools and elementary schools, but theaters are really special buildings so we really have to make sure we have the specialists in the room,” Coordinator of Facilities Planning Jesse Barron said. “There are a lot of technical pieces… There are hundreds of people looking at plans to make sure what we are designing is appropriate for 21st century learning and safe for students and staff.”

The plan comes as a part of Irvine’s Measure E plan which was passed by Irvine Voters in 2016. Under the $319 million Bond Measure, Irvine Unified School District aims to modernize older campuses in the district and ensure that all schools have access to a higher learning environment.

“I’ve performed at Northwood and Portola’s theaters before and there’s a huge difference, considering their campuses and theaters are much newer than Irvine High’s,” junior and Arts Council’s orchestra representative Annabelle Wu said. “Irvine High’s theater is a bit cramped and old in comparison, but it’s definitely functional and will make a compelling performance venue when enough tech work is put into it.”

The performing arts complex will begin construction during the Summer of 2022. Nineteen parking spots will be closed between December and March of 2022, and 71 parking spots will be closed until November 2024.

Alongside the new complex, a redesigned lot will feature 31 parking stalls in front of the school, 76 parking stalls in front of the aquatics center and an 81 stall parking lot replacement.