Garth the Ghost Grows up

History of the Sehome Little Theatre

“The Little Theater was a place I felt comfortable and able to express myself in high school, which isn’t something that everyone has. It gave me passion, a community, leadership opportunities, an outlet for creativity and most importantly, something to do with my time.”

That’s what Michelle Zender, last year’s Thespian Co-President said about the theatre program here at Sehome High School.

The Little Theatre is currently in the process of being emptied out so the drama program at Sehome High School can move to the new building, causing many to take a look back at how the program has changed over the years.

For the most part, the building itself hasn’t changed very much. It holds 204 seats and 24 lighting instruments. The stage is 27 feet across and 22 feet deep. It contains a trapezium shaped scene shop to the right of the stage and a small lighting and sound booth at the back of the audience.
Originally the theatre was meant to be an auditorium or lecture hall, and the light booth a slide projection closet. It was a group of English teachers who converted the building into a functional theatre meant for producing plays.

Then, just over ten years ago, the Class of 2006 breathed life into Garth, the ghost that still haunts the Little Theatre.

“The Garth story started when we wanted to find out who used to be the director’s assistant when the school first opened,” Scott Pattern (class of 2006) said. “We looked it up, from a yearbook dating back to the late sixties or early seventies, we found it was a young man by the name of Garth, who had a very cliche, 70’s style mustache. This turned into a running joke about how the theater was haunted by a moustached ghost by the name of Garth, and it took on a life of its own from there.”
Many professional theatres have a legend of a ghost haunting them, and now Sehome is no different. Garth haunts the building, floating around and causing technical mayhem during shows.

“The technology was always behind the times in the little theatre, but we consistently upgraded lights and sound with the help of parent volunteers,” Former Director Teri Grimes (1988-2000) said.

The technology in the Little Theatre certainly presents some challenges when producing technically complex shows. There is no fly system and there is limited storage, so large set pieces and complex scene changes aren’t an option. The speakers go on and off on their own time schedule, and lights cannot be moved around much show to show due to electrical limitations.

This has always promoted creativity and thinking outside the box to come up with creative solutions to problems and unique ways to make things happen onstage.

“I think my favorite part about shs drama was the fact that with almost anything, we all joined hands and jumped into the deep end together. It humbles you,” Ciara McCarty (class of 2017) said.
On the other hand, backstage, the walls are covered in messages, traditionally left by seniors at the end of their last show in the Little Theatre, dating back to nearly the beginning of the program. It is a tradition seniors both adore and dread, because it marks the end of an era in their lives.

Similarly, the lighting and sound booth is covered wall to wall in quotes, written on tape and stuck up to memorialize funny events or mistakes made during past productions.

The quotes on the walls are being photographed by Julian Dixey (10) so their history will not be lost when the building is destroyed, and the pieces of tape in the booth are being transferred into a scrapbook by the current thespian officers, which will be placed in the new lighting booth.

Now, though it is run down and slightly dysfunctional, it still holds the same heart it always has, and even after it is torn down, the creative spirit it passed to all its students will live on forever.

“While I was president my main goal was to keep fostering that community, and make sure that everyone who walked through the doors felt included and accepted and welcomed into the space and into whatever group was occupying it,” Former Thespian Co-President Rebekah Oviatt (class of 2016), said.

The theatre provided a sense of community and family to all who stepped inside it. Cast parties after every closing matinee and cast nights out kept friends together between shows.

On January 12, the thespians hosted a goodbye event for alumni and current drama students to come and gather to say goodbye to the building. An open mic gave people a chance to speak on the spirit of the program, a video slideshow played, showing production photos dating back to the 1970s, and speeches (or videos) were made by former directors.

“I directed years ago, It’s a Wonderful Life. At the end of the show, George Bailey realizes that he was wealthy the whole time. And what made him wealthy were the friends, and the people that were around him, the relationships he held, the stories that they told, and that that was his wealth,” Former Director, Vicki Chaney said in her goodbye video.

“I feel that about the Little Theatre. We were always the wealthiest theatre in town weren’t we?”