It’s almost showtime for new Portsmouth High auditorium

‘Kate Grana Auditorium’ will be christened during grand opening Sept. 24

By Jim McGaw
Posted 9/16/19

PORTSMOUTH — “We are going to do such a sensational variety show — the best 20 minutes ever in the history of theater,” said Sheli Silveria with only a hint of …

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It’s almost showtime for new Portsmouth High auditorium

‘Kate Grana Auditorium’ will be christened during grand opening Sept. 24

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — “We are going to do such a sensational variety show — the best 20 minutes ever in the history of theater,” said Sheli Silveria with only a hint of hyperbole. 

The Portsmouth High School’s drama advisor was drumming up the grand opening of the newly renovated school auditorium, scheduled for the night of Tuesday, Sept. 24.

With brand-new seats as well as a first-rate lighting and sound system installed, things will look better, sound better and be a lot more comfortable for audience members, organizers said.

“As part of the dedication, we’re going to be a presentation we’re calling, ‘This is What You Paid For,’ and it’s going to involve everybody — the whole world and four more people,” said Ms. Silveria, a board member of the nonprofit Kate Grana Music and Arts Association (KGMAA), which led the charge for the improvements in memory of the beloved music teacher, choral director and vocal coach who died in May 2016. The theater will be named after her.

“Seriously though, we’re going to include the marching band, the dancers, the color guard. We’re going to have singers, dancers, actors and technicians, because we couldn’t do it without them,” added Ms. Silveria.

Her excitement was shared by fellow KGMAA member Margie Brennan, who flipped the switch for a new ceiling fan while giving a reporter a sneak preview of the improvements recently.

“The guys were in here for construction and it was one of the hottest days, and then the fan got installed. I walked in the next day and you could immediately feel the cool of the fan all the way into the back,” said Mrs. Brennan. “We were here for freshmen orientation and it was so comfortable.”

Added Ms. Silveria: “Yesterday I was in Row D, and I texted Margie a video of my hair moving.” 

The bulk of the renovation project has been paid for through private donations toward wall plaques and seat plates, as well as grants — most notably a $225,000 contribution from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation. 

One of the theater’s new features is a cyc, a large, white backdrop at the back of the stage which is used for special-effects lighting in theatrical productions. “There are special-effect lights for the cyc that allows us to project things,” she explained.

The cyc will be used for Ms. Silveria’s first production of the year, “She Kills Monsters,” a sci-fi-type play.

“‘She Kills Monsters’ is going to be sensational, and it’s really going to use all the tools and all the talent that we have in this school,” said Ms. SIlveria, adding that she’s already received positive feedback on the auditorium improvements. “A friend of mine said, ‘These seats are for the audience, and the sound and lighting is for the students,’ and our community will enjoy them both.”

Last week, a new lock desk for the lighting and sound controls was to be installed, along with an $18,000 audio/visual system “with our brand-new screen and projector,” said Mrs. Brennan, who singled out Matt Murphy, the school district’s facilities manager, for all his help on the project.

“I can’t thank him enough,” she said. “He really worked hard with me. Every time there was an issue that I couldn’t answer, he was right here. He’s a good team player.”

Sept. 24 opening

The grand opening will run from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24. The free event is open to all on a first-come, first-served basis. 

“We have 500 seats, so there’s lots of room for people who want to come,” said Mrs. Brennan. “Our donors will come to see what they put their money in, and there will also be officials from the town here. It’s sure to be totally entertaining.

“The best part is we can finally call it The Kate Grana Auditorium.”

For more information, visit www.kgmaa.org.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.