OLINDA - The doors of Seabury Hall's new 500-seat, $7 million creative arts center haven't opened yet, but anticipation is building now as construction nears completion as scheduled on Saturday.
"What color are the curtains?" asked Halia Haynes, a sophomore dancer and singer who will be performing in a gala set for Sept. 28 and 29. "I want to see it."
"I'm very excited to perform in it," added classmate and actress Zoe Harrelson, who will be in an upcoming play production.
Workers put the finishing touches on the stage at Seabury Hall’s new A‘ali‘ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on Friday. Construction is almost complete. The approximately $7 million center will have a seating capacity of 500 people. It will include an orchestra pit and ample room for stage sets.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Also enthusiastic are members of Seabury's Performing & Fine Arts Department.
"I have been here a long time, and finally reaching the point where we'll have a state-of-the-art facility to teach, create and inspire is a dream come true," said Seabury Hall Director of Dance David Ward in an email. "Our dance studio is world-class; there is nothing like it on Maui! Both my students and I are going to reach new heights just being in this amazing new space."
Ward conceived the idea of the alumni gala show and is the director, choreographer and coordinator of the production called "Re-Unite!"
Molly Bauckham, a 1993 graduate of Seabury Hall who is a Celtic harpist and singer performing in the Seattle area, will return to perform.
"I couldn't be more thrilled to be coming home," she said in a Facebook message. "I've missed Maui (who wouldn't?), and I have very fond memories of Seabury.
"I was very gratified to hear about the new performing arts facility. It's been years since I was back on campus, but when I was at Seabury Hall, the performing arts spaces were always catch-as-catch-can," Bauckham added.
"There was never a space that the performing arts could really call their own," she said, adding that her former teachers and the current students deserve a dedicated performance venue.
The new theater has a stage, an orchestra pit and special features designed for teaching and art displays.
The gala opening for the A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center will feature performances by current and former students and faculty.
"We think a new state-of-the-art building will inspire kids to up their game . . . simply by osmosis, maybe," said longtime performing arts teacher Todd VanAmburgh. "And for the faculty it invites more creative collaboration.
"We've been waiting for this for years," added VanAmburgh, the performing arts chairman at the school who has been teaching drama and English for 21 years at the Upcountry campus.
Headmaster Joe Schmidt said it has taken about four years to see the center come to fruition. It took more than two years to get permits, and the last year and a half was spent on construction.
"We're extremely excited on many, many levels," Schmidt said.
He added that the building would not be used only for arts performances, but also for debates, Upcountry community lectures and other events.
"We hope the entire Upcountry community is able to get involved with the facility," he said.
Schmidt said the school and its supporters wanted a place where assemblies and school performances could be comfortably held along with a place for large lectures as well as educational opportunities. Also needed was a better place for Seabury's creative arts programs.
The current theater on the campus is in the school's old gym. Although the school has done a lot to turn it into a versatile theater, it only seats 160 people and there are no bathrooms.
The 10,000-square-foot creative arts center has a stage, seating and ample room for stage props. There is a separate 2,000-square-foot dance studio and classroom adjacent to it.
On the outside, the center is designed to look like a barn with its woodlike, taupe-colored panels. Black fiber grids cover the center's glass sides, which allow light in and out.
Schmidt said lighting in the center will not be harsh to avoid casting light to surrounding areas. Instead, lighting will be designed to emit a glow around the building.
"We built it to look like a barn so it fits in with the Upcountry location. We wanted our neighbors to be as proud of it as we are," he said.
Schmidt said that, with the new center, the school can hold its morning assemblies there as well as hold larger theater performances. So instead of having a production run for several weeks in its small theater to accommodate the demand, there could be fewer performances with each accommodating more people.
Schmidt said everyone at the school can come together to watch live-feed lecturers and speakers from across the world on the center's large screen.
"It's very utilitarian," Schmidt said, noting that the center can be transformed to accommodate different uses.
For example, the orchestra pit, when not in use, can be used for seating. Seating can be configured to provide a large theater setting, or the audience can be brought close to the stage to create an intimate surrounding.
A concession stand is at the front of the center, and some walls are designed for hanging art projects and photo displays in the center's lobby.
The center will be used as a classroom for light and stage design. Unlike other venues where theater hands climb on scaffolding to arrange lights or walk on narrow beams high above the stage, the creative arts center has a "tension grid" that is constructed several feet underneath the ceiling. It has enough space for a person to stand on to work on equipment hanging on the ceiling.
The iron tension grid serves as a platform for theater students and workers to safely stand and walk while adjusting lights and other structures close to the ceiling.
The center has no air conditioning, but instead will use air circulation to cool the building. There are various windows that act as vents, and there are large, quiet fans.
VanAmburgh said the new facility will provide space for different art classes to team up with one another.
For example, students who do three-dimensional art can have their artwork used as part of a performance.
Now, with a large theater space, students can be taught about light design and set design.
The wall at the back of the stage can be opened up, allowing for students to work on bigger sets, VanAmburgh said.
Schmidt said the building of the center brings to an end the school's current building plan, which involved the construction of a new gym, adding a middle school annex and completing upper school buildings over the last 20 years.
"Right now, we are completing the third leg of our master plan for our campus," Schmidt said.
Although the center is being completed, Schmidt said school officials have raised about 80 percent of the costs for the center. They are continuing with their capital campaign, he added.
Schmidt said kumu Keali'i Reichel named the center A'ali'ikuhonua, which comes from the original namesake of a mele (a song/chant) Reichel wrote, regarding Pardee Erdman of Ulupalakua Ranch.
The Erdman family has been a major contributor to the center's capital campaign, he said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* WHAT: The gala opening performance of Seabury Hall's new A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center
* WHEN: 7 p.m. Sept 28 and 29
* WHERE: Seabury Hall Campus
* COST: Admission: $25 adults; $20 senior citizens and students Includes complimentary desserts and beverages Performance includes music, dance, drama and art by honored alumni performers. Artwork will be on display and available for sale.
For information and reservations, call 573-1257