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McNary's new black box theater

By Kelsey Jarnagin
December 9, 2023

A black box is coming to McNary in hopes of later this year. This type of theater is where all the walls are painted black with a flat floor. Adding blackout curtains all around to make the dark ambiance and bright theater lights tie it all together. These theaters can have any performance, but it typically only ranges with smaller plays.  

This will be built in the empty room 212, in the corner between the language hall and the business/health hall. This has been in the works for about three years now.

“What goes into the black box: is having seats, adding some lights in there, and making an actual performance space,” Tom Cavanaugh, theater teacher, said.

In the theater, they will have limited space for audience members, so it is a more personal show, and you can feel connected to it easier. It also helps when plays require audience members to interact with the show; such as a play that was recently performed: ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’.

“A separate classroom space is necessary for the more intimate theater classes and performances. It's just one of those tools that it is nice to have,” Cavanaugh, said.

Other schools in the Salem Keizer area have received a Black Box Theater in the past few years. Cavanaugh wanted to have one of these theaters his entire career to give more space for the theater kids to perform; as well as, go there when other music classes were occupying the theater.

“I’d like it to be a space where the students can direct a show, and put on after-school performances and maybe one evening performance,” Cavanaugh said.

With the added classroom space this will mean more student productions with smaller audiences to watch. But when this room is not being occupied he will lend it to other classes for when they want a more formal background. It would be used for formal presentations or even debates in class. 

With 40 chairs making up the room the students will be able to have more mini one-acts throughout the year as well as open mic nights that they've had in previous years. It's a multi-purpose room that helps give a lot more opportunities. Not having to pause mid-class when it's used is greatly helpful.

“Our theater gets used up a lot so when that happens we have the black box where we can go up and rehearse,” Mary Jespersen, 12, said