Excitement Grows Over New Specialized Facilities

The deserted kitchen awaits Franklin chefs. The culinary arts room, located on the second level of the gym building, is one of the many new facilities at Franklin. Photo by Anna Marè

After two years of modernization, Franklin students and staff are back at the new campus. The modernization resulted in the renovation and addition of many specialized facilities. The dance studio, the culinary arts room, and the auditorium were among those that received significant upgrades as well as new equipment.

The new dance studio, which resides in the performing arts wing, has been completely upgraded. Sonia Warfel is in her third year of teaching dance at Franklin, but it is her first year teaching at the original location. She is thrilled about the features of the new studio; the room has big windows on two sides that allow for natural light as well as mirrors that cover two walls. “The studio also has a beautiful oak floor that is great for tap dancing,” said Warfel. She is most excited about having the extra space to accommodate her large class sizes. “I’m excited that we’re going to be able to set our space up to completely replicate the dimensions of our stage for Arts Alive,” said Warfel. “We’ll be able to practice and won’t have to re-space for different aspect ratios; it will be the same as on the stage, which helps a lot.” The building was intentionally designed for the dance studio, the music room, and the stage of the auditorium to have similar dimensions so that when those groups are getting ready for performances, they can space their shows easily.

The culinary arts room, more commonly referred to by students as “The Kitchen,” is another highlight of the new building. The room is located on the second floor of the gym building. Steve O’Neill is in his third year teaching the foods classes at Franklin. This is also the third year of the culinary arts program as it was switched up from the traditional home economics class to a career technical education class, which allows students to learn things that they can take out into the workplace to get a job. The kitchen is industry standard. “We want kids to get that ‘career feel,’” said O’Neill. “This is set up like any hotel or restaurant kitchen.”

The kitchen has eight stoves, four gas burners, three flat tops (a type of cooking range where the surface is a cross between a griddle and a grill), a grill, convection ovens, steam ovens, a walk-in refrigerator and freezer, catering racks, and an industrial dishwasher. Everything is set up almost exactly how a restaurant kitchen would be set up so students can understand what it’s like to work in that environment. “Personally, I love the flat tops and the convection ovens, which allow everything to be cooked evenly and at the same speed and time,” said O’Neill. The new facility allows students taking the class to gain valuable experience in a kitchen and take their knowledge into a culinary workplace.

The brand new auditorium is a facility that many students are excited for, and one that arguably has experienced the most change. The auditorium resides in the performing arts wing, opposite where it was previously located two years ago. Josh Forsythe, the acting teacher, is in his sixth year at Franklin. He has had the experience of teaching before and after the modernization. Although the new auditorium only houses 500 people compared to the old auditorium’s 1,500, the new style is more theatrical. “The difference of the space between each seat was somewhere close to maybe five or six inches which doesn’t give you a lot of space to look over the person in front of you,” said Forsythe. “The new theater has over a foot of space which gives a greater capacity, and it gets steeper as it goes up.” Because of the steeper incline of the auditorium, the audience gets to really see everything that’s happening on stage without being blocked by the person in front of them.

Another new feature of the auditorium is its state-of-the-art lighting system. The new theater has 36 front light positions compared to the old theater’s six, which accounts for a significant increase in the lighting capacity. “We now have a fair number of LED lights which allow for lower wattage capacity, so they’re more energy efficient and it allows us to do more with the light,” said Forsythe. The LED lights allow the instantaneous change of the color within the light itself rather than a traditional light where you have to change the gel color on the outside. As well as LED and front lights, the new theater also has a moving lights system. “The lighting grid itself is a state of the art system that is equal to what all professional theaters in Portland and even New York are using,” said Forsythe. “The kids that are going through the stagecraft program could leave here knowing the system and go directly to a professional theater and use the exact same equipment.”

The size of the stage has also increased. The new stage is 40 feet wide with offstage areas at 15 feet on either side. “A lot of modern plays call for pretty significant scene changes, and with an old stage that didn’t have any wing space for actors when they’re not on stage, especially big musicals, it was always a challenge,” said Forsythe. “We also have a garage door in the backstage area which allows us to move things into the hallway and back on.” One of the last new features of the auditorium is its full range fly system which allows something to be put onstage fully and then flown out completely. “The height of the proscenium is twenty feet at the top, the fly system doubles, and the ceiling of the theater is 40 feet high, so anything that we put onstage can be taken out completely, including all the curtains,” said Forsythe. “Everything can completely disappear.”

In addition to the main auditorium, Franklin is now home to a black box theater. The theater can transform into four different configurations. It allows for shows to be performed from one side or the other, and allows audiences to sit on one, two, three, or four sides of the theater with a capacity of 100 seats. Shows can be held in both theaters at the same time due to the connected lighting grid. “One of the things that’s true about contemporary theater is that most plays that are written now are being written for stages the size of the black box,” said Forsythe. “Having a studio theater is quite a luxury.”

“With a true lobby, concessions, and box office we have the ability now for an audience to experience a play in a true theatrical sense,” said Forsythe. “Our audience gets the full experience of a true theater.” The first performance in the new auditorium was Hamlet, on November 4. “There’s only one first show, and this is it,” stated Forsythe.

The new dance studio, culinary arts room, and auditorium are only a selection of the many incredible new features and facilities at Franklin. After two years, students and staff are ecstatic to call this new building home, and are thrilled to use these new additions for years to come.

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