It’s 8 a.m. on Monday, the week of the fall play’s premiere. I walk into the Santa Barbara High School’s theater to find director Otto Layman working on the set for his fourth hour. The green walls of the Darling home and a pirate cove coalesce onstage, with a white frame Otto staples a sheet over. He throws a mattress on top and voil ! It’s a bed.
The theater department is putting on a fall play equal in spectrum to the recent improvements the theater has undergone. Two years ago, the Santa Barbara High Theatre Foundation decided to improve the 660 seats of the lower level, seats left over from the 1970s. Hundreds of audiences later, the seats were torn, stained, and in much need of repair. After raising $140,000, the 500 new seats were installed, complete with larger aisles, more leg room, and wheel-chair accessibility.
The technological aspects of the theater have undergone major improvements, proudly now a concert-quality audio space, surround sound, and a new lighting system. “This is probably the best theater space (that’s not a rental space) in Santa Barbara!” Otto exclaimed, before mentioning the flying tracks installed especially for the show. I looked up to see pulleys and harnesses, well-equipped for the flying scenes of Peter Pan.
The unusually large cast of 42 is preparing for its debut this Friday, Nov. 9, having spent an extensive amount of time in rehearsal. For eight weeks, the actors and tech crew rehearse every day after school, with anywhere from four to six hours daily nearing the show. Furthermore, the tech crew put in an extra 25 hours last weekend to work on sets and props. The time restraints mean nothing to Otto, as he excuses himself to noisily cut a piece of wood with an electric blade before moving to pick up a broom.
The time spent in the theater is not in vain, as recently the theater department was nominated to attend Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August of next year. SBHS represents one of 22 American schools, spending two days in London and twelve days in Scotland. A cast of 35 techies and actors have been chosen to perform the musical Hair. The group will rehearse through the school year, with an intensive schedule during July.
Otto calls a student over and begins to discuss the tech weekend’s joys and flaws. A lot of work remains to be done for the show’s premiere Friday night, but he assures the audience can expect “magic, adventure, heartbreak, joy and triumph.”
Peter Pan plays November 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m., with a sold-out matinee performance for local elementary schools on Nov. 15, thanks to sponsor Mary Layman and associates. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students.
To support the theater department’s trip to Scotland, contact Otto Layman at 966-9101 x 220 or write him at 700 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, 93103.