LINCOLN PARK — Suzanne Wychocki family was thrilled when her daughter, Isabelle, was accepted into Lincoln Park High School’s theater program in 2018.
Wychocki brought her 76-year-old father from Naperville so he could see her daughter at her first play. But she was underwhelmed by the conditions of the school auditorium: a single on-and-off switch for the lights with no way to adjust them, tattered drapes and no soundboard.
“I looked at the stage and realized there was just a microphone on a stand on the floor in front of the stage,” Wychocki said. “That’s all they had for sound.”
That influenced Wychocki to create StageRightCPS, a nonprofit organization that’s holding a Comedy Night fundraiser this month to raise money to renovate Lincoln Park High School’s auditorium.
The fundraiser, happening 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Lincoln Lodge, 2040 N. Milwaukee Ave., will feature local stand-up comedians, including Jeanie Doogan, Jayson Acevedo, Bridget McGuire, Sharup Karim and Maggie DiPaolo.
Tickets cost $100, and all the funds raised will go toward the auditorium’s renovation, Wychocki said.
“You can expect a little sampling of these comedians, and we’ll have a small jazz ensemble from the performing arts program so people can see the kids in action,” Wychocki said. “It’s a great way to have an enjoyable night out while supporting the students at Lincoln Park High School.”
Wychocki founded StageRightCPS a few years ago as a way to support Chicago Public Schools’ art programs by equipping their facilities with technology, resources and skills for students to excel.
The nonprofit’s first project — renovating Lincoln Park High School’s auditorium — is expected to cost $2 million, Wychocki said. That covers everything from replacing the flooring to installing a soundboard, light board, drapery and other stage upgrades.
Ross Frellick, who’s taught drama at the high school for almost 22 years, said these improvements are “necessary upgrades” for offering students the “well-rounded education that they deserve.”
“Our auditorium is somewhere below just not being up to date,” Frellick said. “We’re at the point where light is not being produced because the bulbs we use aren’t even being manufactured anymore. We’re getting darker as we go.”
Without a proper lighting system or sound board, Fellick has had to choose plays with reduced technical requirements. But he said having the proper technology would allow for more hands-on technical theater training for the students.
“Right now, our technical theater curriculum is a very theoretical exercise,” Frellick said. “If we had lights, I could show students how to do it; but instead, we just talk about what it might be, which is less satisfying and practical if they go on to work in the industry.”
The school’s choir and orchestra also use the auditorium and struggle with its technical limits, Frellick said.
“They have issues with the drummers in the back row not being able to read their music because there’s no lighting for them, and that’s a very basic lighting requirement for the stage,” Frellick said. “Having kids hidden in the shadows or background is not the reward they deserve for their hard work.”
You can donate to the StageRightCPS Lincoln Park fundraiser here.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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