After years and years of success, some of the most successful programs in Oak Lawn Community High School history are finally going to take center stage on campus. Boasting eleven Illinois High School Association Drama State Championships, one Speech State Title, and numerous band and choir accomplishments, the Spartans are preparing to unveil plans and begin construction on a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center (PAC) on its campus near the corner near 95th Street and Austin Ave.
There is a community information meeting planned to inform residents about the project set up for Monday, May 22, at 6:00 p.m., in the Little Theater, and the groundbreaking ceremony will be Wednesday, May 24, at 6:00 p.m. by the tennis courts at the south end of the building. Both events are open to the public.
“The OLCHS community is excited and proud to provide a state-of-the-art facility that strongly supports our student’s growth and development in the performing arts,” said District 229 Superintendent Dr. Michael Riordan. “This groundbreaking event will begin our journey toward providing this resource to our students and the community. All members of the OLCHS community are invited to join us in this celebration.”
The PAC will be multifunctional, including a seating capacity of more than 600, a rehearsal and performance theater (Black Box Theater), an orchestra pit at the front of the stage, dressing rooms, and a scene shop. These features will help alleviate some of the gymnasium congestion and function as a venue for the fall musical, spring competitive plays, band and choir concerts, Honors Nights, Academic Letter Nights, class meetings, and various parent presentations.
The center will be built at the south end of the campus and replace the south tennis courts while being attached to the main building. As a result, the tennis program will get eight brand new tennis courts at the north end of campus.
“I’m really excited for the project because it provides our music and drama programs with opportunity to perform in a venue designed to showcase and highlight the talents of our students. Currently, our programs are limited to utilizing a gymnasium or the student cafeteria,” said OLCHS Assistant Principal Joseph McCurdy.
While the PAC will take some of the pressure off gym utilization, the opportunity is now present for the Theater, Speech, Band and Choir programs to truly benefit and showcase their talents. The PAC will also allow the school and community to host professional musicians, theater events, and competitions.
“This is a very exciting time at OLCHS,” said Spring Drama Director Billy Denton. “We have some of the most artistic and talented students in the state, and it’s wonderful that there will finally be a building to showcase our immensely talented students.”
“The activity sponsors, coaches, and directors were excited to be involved in the design and creation of this wonderful facility,” said Co-Head Speech Coach Theodore Kahriman. “We look forward to offering the school and community high quality theatrical and musical programs in this new space for years to come.”
This project has developed through the hard work of the school board, Dr. Riordan, Assistant Superintendent Rick Hendricks, McCurdy, Denton, Kahriman, Stage Manager Marcus Wargin, Musical Director Jeff Pastiak, Band Director Paul Levy, Choir Head Mark Baglione, Music Teacher Robert Habersat, Teacher Dennis Forst, Building & Grounds Supervisor Joe Giglio, Jr., Board Vice President Matt Egan, and various other interested parties. And, District 229 Board of Education President Robert Loehr may have said it best, “This is a very exciting time for the students, staff, and community of Oak Lawn Community High School District 229. For years our performing arts programs have been recognized as among the best throughout the state of Illinois. The Board of Education is proud to provide the investment of this facility to support the continued education and growth of our students for years to come. I want to thank my fellow Board members, the OLCHS administration and staff, as well as the District 229 community for their support of our students and our school.”