Area school looks to remodel theater, open it to wider use

Burlingame Intermediate School officials are kick-starting plans to remodel their aging theater and hope to transform it into a facility that can be used by the entire community.

The refurbished theater will be designed to attract everything from traveling Shakespeare productions to City Council debates to guest speakers, BIS principal Ted Barone said.

“We really wanted it to not just be for the school community, but also for the Burlingame community as a whole,” Barone said.

Many active in local theater, such as Burlingame Historical Society board member Cathy Foxhoven, agree that a BIS theater remodel would bring much-needed performance space to a city considered to be lacking it. Foxhoven, who oversees productions for choirs, drama clubs, the historical society and the American Association of University Women, said she often has trouble finding the right venue for her shows.

The 525-seat theater was built more than 50 years ago and has not been refurbished since, Barone said. Remodeling the facility, which has uncomfortable seats and lacks digital theater equipment, has been on the school’s wish list for the better part of this decade, but Barone said the process has been a slow one since other school priorities came up. Though a new lighting system was installed last year, there is much more to be done, he said.

Currently, performing groups take a case-by-case approach to finding performance space, depending on the size, cost of renting space and type of event, Councilman and historical society president Russ Cohen said. The Il Piccolo Players have found a home in their namesake cafe on Broadway, the historical society sets up shop in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church or at the Burlingame Caltrain Station and several music and drama groups from the Burlingame School District clamor for the BIS space.

There used to be a stage in the Burlingame Recreation Center, but nearly a decade ago it was remodeled into a dance studio. There are currently no plans for city-funded theater space, Parks and Recreation Director Randy Schwartz said.

“There truly is not adequate space in Burlingame to do theater,” Foxhoven said. “For kids, for adults, for anyone.”

District officials and architects are finishing up work on a master plan for the theater, which identifies priorities like light dimmers, electronic equipment and a control booth, according to a draft of the improvement plan from 2004. A 2004 estimate found that three phases of theater improvement would cost nearly $204,000.

tramroop@examiner.com

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