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MAHS theater program receives $17,500 in grants

Students rehearse this winter's one-act play at Morris Area High School. Rae Yost file photo/Morris Sun Tribune

While break a leg is often associated with the theater, for this theater director it's a broken ankle that created a hitch to receiving a total of $17,500 in grants from the KSTC-45 TV and Chevrolet Drive For Education program.

Seth Kelly, an English teacher and theater director at Morris Area High School, applied for a $2,500 grant from the KSTC-45 and Chevrolet program. MAHS was awarded that grant and told it was in the running for $15,000 more. Kelly was scheduled to pick up the award during a ceremony on the Thursday, March 9, of the state hockey tournament.

"I was so excited about that," Kelly said. On the Monday prior, he broke his ankle.

He found a substitute to attend the hockey game and ceremony. But when he notified the grant program officials, he learned the school had won the additional $15,000. Program officials said they were sorry to hear about Kelly's ankle but said someone needed to be at Saturday's hockey games for another ceremony to receive the $15,000.

Fellow MAHS staff member and theater director Tammy Roth stepped in that Saturday.

The broken ankle complicated the process and it's kept Kelly from diving into finalizing plans on how to spend the grant money.

Not that the theater department does not have ideas. In fact, Kelly needed to list some plans for the money in the grant application.

Although, "We've had a lot of support to make a lot of improvements from the time I started here...," there are still needed improvements, Kelly said.

"We have a strong theater program but the facility is not keeping up," Kelly said. "We have some plumbing issues, heat issues, the stage floor is rough..."

The theater facility also has lighting issues. "Lighting is one thing I'd like to look into," Kelly said.

"We have some lights in the house that just don't work," Kelly said. The broken lights can make it difficult to maneuver in the theater, he said. "We have some older lighting cans that just don't work, they are so old."

He'd also like to replace some top lights and lights above the stage.

The curtains also need attention. "A fifth to a quarter of the back curtains are ripped off," Kelly said. Some of the curtains also need repair or replacement.

Curtains are an expensive project, Kelly said.

The Morris Area School District has started discussion overall facility needs. Kelly said theater needs have been part of the discussion.

The $17,500 in grants, is a big step in meeting some theater needs, Kelly said.