On January 3, the A Building reopened, but construction on the Community Theater has continued since. The theater first went under construction in the summer of 2020. The process was initially expected to be completed by the summer of 2022, though the school now predicts construction will end sometime in May of this year, according to BHS Vice Principal Harrison Blatt.
The total budget for the theater and the A Building sums up to approximately $60 million according to BUSD spending reports.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive project that involves things like seismic retrofitting, to make it safer for earthquakes,” Blatt said. “There’s also some pretty extensive work done to the backstage area, like dressing rooms, green rooms, and storage.”
He added that the stage has been scaled down to accommodate the new backstage area, but the 3500 seats will not be altered.
The space will also be made more accessible to people with disabilities, with additions such as ramps and accessible bathrooms.
“Now, it’s much more open and welcoming to all people, which I think is really really important and fits with the values of the school and the community,” Blatt said. Reaching the restrooms was previously much more difficult for those with disabilities.
Jordan Winer, a drama and AC English teacher, spoke about the function of the flatscreens that were recently added to the A Building classrooms.
Classrooms in the A Building will serve as green rooms, a space for performers to get ready and wait before, during, and after performances in the theater. Additionally, a new sound and video system is being installed throughout the A Building and Community Theater, which will enable people in the green rooms and the lobby to observe what occurs in the theater.
“If we’re doing a show in the theater we should be able to turn this on and actually hear it,” Winer said. “Or even cooler than that, is we could be watching (a show) on that monitor and know, it’s time for me to go.”
Despite many new features, the house of the theater will remain untouched, still containing many of the original details from the theater’s initial design in 1938.
Blatt added that the Community Theater has a rich history; famous artists such as Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, and many others have performed on its stage.
“The goal is to bring it back to that level of prestige within the community and really put on some professional performances that are supported by the students,” Blatt said.
Other plans for the use of the theater include student musical and theatrical performances, graduation events, and other student productions. While classes are held in the A Building, they will have access to the Community Theater and Little Theater, Blatt said.
Blatt discussed his hopes on the impact of the renovation on the community.
“I think it’ll really inspire a lot of students, families, staff members, to come to Berkeley High and do really amazing things in the performing arts,” he said.