Curtain rises at Mercy High auditorium

School unveils addition with play, dedication today

November 14, 2003|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

When the 38 cast members take center stage tonight at Mercy High School for the inaugural performance of Song at the Scaffold, they will be performing in a new 700-seat auditorium that is the centerpiece of the school's most ambitious construction project since it was built in 1960.

The two-story, 39,400-square-foot addition, built at a cost of $5.8 million, includes the auditorium, dressing rooms, a drama studio, a choir room, a dance studio, gallery space, classrooms and a sacristy.

The play by Emmet Lavery is part of weekend-long festivities that begin at 1 p.m. today when the 515 students and 65 faculty members join the board of trustees, donors and other guests in the auditorium as Roman Catholic Bishop William Newman blesses and dedicates the building.

"We've never had just an auditorium," Sister Carol Wheeler, the school's principal, said this week.

She said the school improvised with a combination gymnasium and auditorium that was used as practice space for school activities. The new auditorium will provide space for a school-wide assembly, the performing arts and religious events at the all-girls Catholic high school on Northern Parkway in Northeast Baltimore.

School officials realized about 10 years ago that they needed additional space, Wheeler said.

"The original plan for the school had an auditorium on the drawings, but there was no money to build it," Wheeler said.

Officials broke ground for the addition in April last year and have raised most of the money to pay for construction, Wheeler said. The school's capital campaign will continue until June.

Workmen were making last-minute repairs earlier in the week, getting ready for the dedication, said Paul Prosser, Mercy's business manager. Some of the studios and classrooms are not yet occupied.

"We had to get ready for the play first," he said.

Wheeler said the best part of the new addition is that the students love it. She took each class on a tour, she said, and they called it "awesome."

The auditorium was also used Sunday at Mercy's open house for prospective students and parents.

Other weekend activities include a donor reception at 6 p.m. today, followed by a brief dedication program and the play at 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow's activities include an alumni donor reception at 6 p.m., a brief dedication program and another performance at 7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, a student council luncheon theater will be held for at 12:30 p.m., followed by the play at 2 p.m.

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