Marshall shows off new digs

Audience members at Marshall School's production of "The Masque of Beauty and the Beast" this weekend probably will notice something different about their theater experience.

Audience members at Marshall School's production of "The Masque of Beauty and the Beast" this weekend probably will notice something different about their theater experience.

Instead of wobbling around on unattached seats with foam stuffing protruding into their backs, they can actually sit back comfortably and enjoy the show.

The newly renovated Fregeau Auditorium opened its doors for a gala celebration Nov. 16.

Before the $1.2 million renovation, which was paid for through donations and began this summer, the 43-year-old auditorium had poor acoustics, minimal storage, a smoking light board and ripped and stained chairs, carpeting and curtains.

Not anymore.


Now, red velvet drapes dress the stage; new, bigger chairs have replaced deteriorating ones; and updated sound and light equipment bounce light and sound around the auditorium in ways the old equipment never came close to achieving.

"It's like being a kid in a candy factory, and I can have and do whatever I want," drama coordinator Lois O'Leary said about the changes.

Called the Zeppa Stage and Scene Shop in honor of a $500,000 donation from the A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation, a new area provides space for students to build and store sets, replacing the oversized closet they had to work with in the past.

"There is a sink back there for painting and cleaning," Alex Stewart, a senior who plays Beauty's father in the play, said about the scene room. "It's nice because we don't have to worry about getting paint on the stage and curtains. We finally have our own space."

Kelsey Klug, a sophomore who plays one of Beauty's sisters, said she immediately noticed a difference in the amount of oomph she had to put behind her voice to project it offstage.

"Last year, I noticed I really had to try and project but now it just feels like I'm just talking kind of loud," she said. "It's pretty awesome that we don't have to shout to be heard anymore."

Even when students did shout in years past, Erica Northcott, a senior and tech director for the play, said dead spots in the front and middle of the auditorium were essentially absent of sound.

"The new equipment bounces the sound into the back of the audience and it's just amazing," Northcott said.


O'Leary said the sound equipment allows them to mix sounds, as when Beauty's father is talking to a bank officer in front of a tavern during a scene in the play. The sound equipment can mix tavern sounds, like clinking glasses and conversation, with the dialogue exchange between the characters.

"It creates a much more realistic ambience," she said.

They can be more innovative with lighting as well. Old equipment allowed only for turning certain groups of lights off or on using rusty, heavy levers on a light board that occasionally started smoking. The new equipment can create more subtle lighting effects at the touch of a finger.

The space will be more than an asset to the school, Head of School Marlene David said -- it will be an asset to the community.

"The auditorium was so dramatically in need of fixing up after almost 45 years of no improvements. Now it will last another couple of decades," she said. "What I loved about renovating the theater is that it can be used as a gathering space, for the arts, for the kids and faculty to talk about important issues and for the Duluth community.

A gala was held for the opening of the auditorium a few weeks ago, but "The Masque of Beauty and the Beast" will be the first production in the renovated theater.

Performances will be today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at door. Adult tickets are $6, student tickets are $3 and Marshall student tickets are $2.

SARAH HORNER covers K-12 education. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5342 or by e-mail at .

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.