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Readying for a fine arts upgrade

Morris Community High School raises funding for auditorium rehab

Anyone who has been in the Morris Community High School auditorium the past few years knows the space could use a major overhaul. Especially the seats.

Anyone taking their seat for a show at the high school will find themselves sinking deep into the 70-year-old, narrow, uncomfortable, low-to-the-ground seats.

Now, the school district is asking for the community’s help financing the rehab. Donations are encouraged, and raffle tickets are being sold throughout town and online.

The auditorium serves students, staff and parents for plays and musicals, concerts by the music department, student council, guest speakers, sports awards, recognition ceremonies, the speech team and meetings for parents, such as college financing seminars.

The space is also a fixture for more than just the school and the student body, MCHS educator and play director Andrea Gustafson said. The whole community uses it for their events and meetings, she said.

The auditorium also has been used for Grundy County Corn Festival events, an indoor rain location for local parades and ceremonies, dance recitals and Grundy Area Vocational Center events, among others.

The Morris Theatre Guild put on its plays in the auditorium before building its current location.

“Those seats are pretty old,” Gustafson said. “Anyone that’s been in there lately knows that it’s definitely time to get them replaced. ... I do know that the new seats will be wider. They don’t make seats that narrow anymore.”

The seats will be the main focus of the renovations, she said, but work also needs to be done on the lighting, stage equipment and flooring.

Painting and a new curtain also are long overdue. The old lighting not only is too hot, she said, but it also costs the district more than new energy-efficient bulbs will.

“I think the auditorium is a reflection of not only the school, but also the whole community,” MCHS Fine Arts Booster Club board member Tiffany Duffy said. “Updating and renovating it is a good investment in the community. It’s due for an upgrade, and it’s good for the kids to know that we’re invested in their interests and in their talents.”

The auditorium renovation campaign was kicked off by a $25,000 donation from the Richard and Carol Walker family in memory of Carol’s late uncle Robert A. Johnson, who especially appreciated theater.

MCHS District 101 Superintendent Dr. Craig Ortiz encouraged the community to support the fundraiser for the auditorium.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “The auditorium is used by a lot of organizations that come in from outside. I think it’s going to be a great project for us for many years to come.”

The big prize for the winner of the raffle tickets is a weeklong vacation package for two adults and two children at their choice of a resort condominium in Maui, Lake Tahoe, Vail/Avon, or a location in Mexico to be announced.

Tickets may be bought at the high school’s front office, at home football games, from students in fine arts classes and those in the fall play, online through the high school’s web page, and through links on the Facebook sites of Andrea Moore Gustafson and the Morris Community High School Fine Arts Alumni.

The tickets are $25 and will be drawn Oct. 27, the last night of the school’s fall play. Buyers do not have to be present to win.

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