The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District authorized the implementation of a Barnum Hall Facilities Use Plan at its meeting Thursday, August 31st. This will create a theater operations manager position.

Barnum Hall is Santa Monica High School’s (Samohi’s) main performing arts space and over $7.5 million was spent on the restoration of Barnum Hall several years ago. The hall was closed in 1997 and reopened in December 2002. Since that time, it has had no manager.

The Facilities Use Plan and theater operations manager — who will also manage the Greek Theater — is essential for Barnum Hall to reach its fullest potential and also bring community performances to the space, some believe.

“It’s great news,” said Jean Sedillos, chairwoman of Restore Barnum Hall. “We need a theater manager to keep Barnum in good condition.”

Having this position is essential for the hall to be utilized for community performances and even just Samohi’s performances, Sedillos said. Members of the Samohi Performing Arts Community Enterprise (SPACE) agree.

“A manager is needed, whether they have community events or not, because Samohi has about 3,100 students and probably 1,000 of them are in performing arts,” said Sedillos. “For their performances, that use alone is extensive.

“The hall needs somebody to operate it just for that. There are really big snafus that could happen. There are complicated systems in that auditorium.”

Sedillos recalls times when lights couldn’t be turned up to recognize parent volunteers at orchestra concerts because nobody knew how. She also remembers a time at a choral concert when no one knew how to turn the heat down, so the balcony turned into what she called “a sauna.”

“We need a theater manager to keep Barnum in top condition and make sure it works for students,” Sedillos said at the meeting. “I urge you to create the theater manager position tonight. Think of the investment you’ll be protecting — not just the $8 million restoration, but the value of the hall itself — historical, artistic and monetary.”

With the approval of the new theater operations manager position and the eight other recommendations in the Facilities Use Plan, $176,500 worth of upgrades were approved by the board.

The board of education approved the following nine recommendations:

n create a theater operations manager position;

n implement a stage craft technology class;

n create a 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organization called “Friends of Barnum Hall”;

n adopt a proposed rental fee schedule;

n create a marketing strategy for Barnum Hall;

n renovate bathrooms and other areas in the hall;

n install signage;

n purchase audiovideo

presentation equipment; and

n create an operating budget.

These recommendations were made by Mitze Productions, a firm that was hired by the board in February to evaluate both Barnum Hall and the Greek Theater. They focused their evaluation on Barnum Hall — as it had the most potential for revenue — and created a Facilities Use Plan, school officials said.

“It’s a great proposal,” said Kathy Wisnicki, vice president of the board. “Thank you.”

“I want to thank you very much for your work,” said board member Oscar de la Torre, who was a student at Samohi and has fond memories of Barnum Hall. “The importance of Barnum Hall just cannot be overstated.”

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