Chairs with no seats, tiles falling from the ceiling, stage lights with only a tenuous connection to the light board, and speakers that give off a consistent buzz.
These are the problems students at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy in southwest Denver documented in a video that won them a $10,000 grant from NBC.
The television network gave $500,000 to 50 schools in honor of its new drama “Rise,” which is about a high school theater department and its effects on a small town. NBC distributed the money in partnership with the non-profit Educational Theatre Foundation.
Kunsmiller, where 84 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, a proxy for poverty, was selected from among 1,000 schools.
In their application video, students at the school give viewers a tour of their theater, which has seen better days.
“Welcome to the theater. It’s very sad,” one student says.
Principal Peter Castillo said the quotes he’s gotten to realize his complete vision for the arts-oriented school – a dance studio, a concert-quality music venue, and a new theater – have been “a little disheartening.”
Castillo noted that in contrast to Denver School of the Arts, students at Kunsmiller have traditionally focused more on the visual arts because that’s what they had exposure to in elementary school. Better facilities will open up more opportunities for students to explore other art forms.
The grant is a small percentage of the total need, but it will allow the school to upgrade the lighting and sound systems and repaint the theater, with money left over for additional training for staff and for students to visit other school theater facilities to develop a plan for Kunsmiller. And it will also help boost fundraising efforts, he said.
Castillo gave credit to drama teacher Nicole Hudson for helping the students put together their submission.
“The kids had some fun showing off our 60-year-old stage and our 60-year-old chairs and our 60-year-old feel,” he said.
Here’s the winning video: