Morro Bay High School Celebrates New Theater

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 23, 2023

This front view of the new Theater at Morro Bay High School was taken from outside the new Administration/Student Services Building.

Photos by Neil Farrell

The newest addition to the transformed Morro Bay High School will help students and the community with something sorely lacking around here — cultural events and performances.

The Theater, as it’s called for now, used to be a cafeteria but like most of the rest of the campus, people who went to MBHS wouldn’t recognize the old place.

Principal Scott Schalde, while giving a tour of the performing arts facility last week, says they’d just taken possession of the theater about a month prior and it had only hosted one performance so far, a concert by the school choir. 

The second production, The Addams Family musical comedy was getting set to open in a few days for a weekend run, and would also run this weekend in a production that’s almost entirely the work of the drama department students, from set design and production to acting.

He points out several little touches like lit mirrors in the theater’s foyer and special paneling on the walls. “They put in some very thoughtful details,” Schalde says as he leads the way into the theater.

Rows of roll-away seating at the new Theater means 
there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Anyone whose ever gone to see a play in the old cafeteria wouldn’t would not know they are in the same building. The result of the makeover is a sizable spacious room with rows of seating on roll-away tiers that work like the bleachers in a gym but with comfy seats. There’s a large floor space in front of the stage where fold-up chairs will be set out for floor seating, bringing the total capacity to about 300. 

There’s also state-of-the-art stage lighting and sound gear, which Schalde says he was not expecting. He laughs because the second-year principal had nothing to do with planning any of the changes the school district has done, yet he and the students will reap the benefits of the changes for many years to come.

“This theater compares very well with the Spanos Theater at Cal Poly,” a very proud Schalde explains. He adds that the students will run the lights and sound for the drama department’s productions. 

MBHS Principal Scott Schalde shows the drop down 
movie screen at the new Theater. This photo is taken from 
the top row of the bleacher seats.

To one side, where the cafeteria’s kitchen used to be, is now a large storage room for the department’s gear and there’s also a classroom where, for now, they are teaching English. Another thoughtful detail, he says, is that the builders kept two large roll-up doors that make moving equipment in and out much easier.

The stage is wide and deep with the customary wings on either side. Backstage is new too as the boys and girls now have their own dressing rooms, complete with lighted mirrors and there’s even a “green room” where snacks and drinks are laid out for the student actors.

The new theater is the latest facility to be completed under the San Luis Coastal School District’s plans funded by 2014’s Measure D, a $177 million bond measure passed by voters in the district, which includes San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Los Osos and Avila Beach, with some students attending out of the Cayucos School District. 

The backstage Green Room was loaded up with 
snacks in advance of the students’ performance of 
The Addams Family musical comedy.

Measure D has funded an almost complete remodel of the MBHS and SLO High campuses adding numerous facilities to the high school by the beach that include a swimming pool; tennis courts; new track; a STEAM Lab wing; new auto shop; remodeling of the old gym and science wing; a wonderful student quad area; a new wrestling room; student support building (admin offices); new band and choir practice rooms and ag mechanics shop; new wiring infrastructure and the Theater.

The old library is being turned into a new “cafeteria” with a “common room,” which Schalde marvels at because it looks like something one might see at a community college or even a university. A new library is also under construction in what used to be a wing of classrooms and a snack bar and should be completed by next school year.

To date the District has spent over $51 million at MBHS and while the school’s music and drama departments have long staged successful productions, the sky’s the limit now with these new facilities.

Readers hoping to catch “The Adams Family” performance can do so on April 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. or April 23 at 2 p.m.Tickets are sold electronically through Ludus at Show your ticket barcode to be scanned upon entry.

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