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Southwestern College Performing Arts Students and Faculty Welcome Semester with New Center Opening


On the evening of March 16, 2020, theater students at Southwestern College performed their final dress rehearsal for their upcoming production on stage at the 52-year-old Mayan Hall Theater.

The troupe did not know at the time that their bilingual performance of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” would never see opening night. Three days later, the governor announced a statewide shutdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“(Our principal) said we would do a final dress rehearsal with the costumes and everything,” said Jaden Guerrero, a third year theater and music student. “It was our last.”

On Monday, Guerrero and two other students from this production returned to the Chula Vista campus to perform one of the stages, this time in a shiny new auditorium that is part of the highly anticipated Performing Arts Center.

Students Marcel Ferrin (left) and Jaden Guerrero (right) test out the new stage at Southwestern College Performing Arts Center.

(Brittany Cruz-Fejeran / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

College officials unveiled the 48,000-square-foot facility, located next to the wellness and aquatic complex on the corner of Otay Lakes Road and East H Street, just in time for the start of classes. fall Monday. The center will begin the semester with 51 performing arts classes, representing 70 percent of the total classes that will be taught in person.

The building will house student activities, as well as community and other public events. It includes amphitheatres, classrooms suitable for dance, theater, stage props and construction, as well as a 540-seat auditorium and 151-seat black box theater that can accommodate a variety of events. or classroom instruction, according to designers Tucker Sadler Architects.

It cost $ 66 million to erect the Performing Arts Center, which was funded by Proposition R ($ 5 million) and Proposition Z ($ 61 million). Prop. R passed in 2008, with $ 389 million in general bond obligations for the construction or rehabilitation of college facilities. In November 2016, voters in South Bay approved Prop Z., a $ 400 million blanket bond for Southwestern College to renovate infrastructure. An extension of the San Ysidro Higher Education Center and a new student union are also planned under the Z proposal, university officials said.

“With the opening of our new Performing Arts Center, the once vacant corner lot has realized its full potential,” College Superintendent and President Mark Sanchez said in a statement. “The Performing Arts Center – associated with our Wellness and Aquatic Complex – is a great opportunity for our community to engage with Southwestern College. “

The building’s floor-to-ceiling glass facade and huge solar mural that spans the exterior are impressive, but it’s the technology and adaptable rooms to learn the history and technical aspects of the performing arts for one. college with an aging Mayan hall that has a theater art teachers like Ruff Yeager and playwright Thelma Virata de Castro are excited to start the semester after months of virtual learning.

“The pandemic, like everything in our world, has interrupted this rhythm and made it almost impossible to communicate in person … But now that we are inside and we are in this building, we are going to be in a different rhythm”, Yeager said, adding that registrations filled up quickly for his acting class. “They are looking for an outlet. They are looking for contact.

For student performers, the carefully designed stages offer them the opportunity to bring quality work.

“In the other theater (Mayan Hall) the sound was too loud so we really had to stand there and really push,” said second year student Gabriela Flanders.

“You have to give it all at once in the middle of a line,” added third-year student Marcel Ferrin. “It makes it easier when you don’t have to put in so much effort. “

The faculty said the new space also inspires a more refreshing approach to teaching.

Yeager said that part of his teaching this semester will ask students to reflect on “who you are as a human being so that you can portray a character on stage.” I’m going to focus a lot more on this. After this pandemic, I think it’s even more important.

The center has already scheduled a show for October: “Hand Under Hand” by Virata de Castro, a musical that explores Asian American caregivers. Hearings are expected to start in the coming weeks.

Mayan Hall is set to be demolished in the coming months, with no definitive plans for what will happen to the area, said Cynthia McGregor, the college’s dean of arts, communication and social sciences.

Students Jaden Gurerrero (left), Gaby Flanders (center) and Marcel Ferrin at the Southwestern College Performing Arts Center.

Students Jaden Gurerrero (left), Gaby Flanders (center) and Marcel Ferrin at the Southwestern College Performing Arts Center.

(Brittany Cruz-Fejeran / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

With great enthusiasm for the new performances and the return to in-person teaching, students and faculty have acknowledged that COVID-19 is still present and that precautions must continue. Southwestern College announced earlier this month that it will require masks and COVID-19 vaccines before the semester begins.

“I’m just glad they (the college) are giving us a chance to prove that we can keep things safe,” Guerrero said.

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