March 14, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 10

Effort aims at center's theater

A consultant who toured the Chilkat Center two weeks ago has estimated the cost of repairing or replacing theater equipment at about $140,000.

“I’m very encouraged by it. We couldn’t start our capital campaign until we had something like this from an estimator,” said Tod Sebens, a local play director who’s heading up an effort to address improvements.

The list laid out by Sheldon Warshaw of the Pacific Northwest Theater Association includes “what needs to be fixed, replaced, added or upgraded” in terms of non-structural improvements to the theater, auditorium, lobby and associated electronic equipment, Sebens said.

Warshaw’s list includes more than $50,000 for a new lighting control system, about $27,000 for lighting instrumentation, more than $10,000 each for wireless microphone and projector systems, and more than $6,000 each for lighting effects and sound systems.

The recommendations were presented at a meeting last week attended by representatives of the Haines Borough, Haines Arts Council, Lynn Canal Community Players and the Foundation for the Chilkat Center. The groups paid for Warshaw’s trip from Seattle to provide a comprehensive and professional estimate, Sebens said.

Besides directing plays and serving in LCCP, Sebens has worked on the technical side of productions. In a recent interview, he characterized much of the theater’s electronic equipment as aging and failing.

“If you ignore things, they eventually fall apart. It’s doing that. It’s like taking care of your car,” Sebens said.

The light control panel is so old “they can’t even repair it,” he said. When the “chime” button is pushed to bring the audience back into the auditorium after intermission, the house lights go off, he said. “There’s glitches in the system.”

An intercom that broadcasts audio from the theater stage to the dressing room and green room no longer works. Infrared headsets used to amplify performances for audience members who have difficulty hearing don’t always work. Only two belt packs work in the theater’s “ClearComm” system for communicating between the light booth and more than a dozen other locations in the building.

Sebens said replacing the light control board and “patch panel” between the control board and lights is a major priority. The analog system should be replaced by a digital one that is smaller and more energy efficient, he said.

The condition of the equipment has deteriorated to the point that it’s becoming noticeable to audiences, Sebens said.

“It’s time. It does interfere with shows to a certain extent. You bring the stage lights down slowly, and ‘boom,’ they’re off. The sliders on the control board, two or three of them don’t work anymore. Things are just worn out in there.”

One of the two main speakers at the front of the auditorium is blown, he said. Besides repairing that, Sebens would like to see addition of speakers at the back of the hall, as well. Speakers would be “phased” so the sound would play at appropriate time regardless of where an audience member is sitting, he said.

Sebens said he anticipates forming a steering committee for upgrades and a meeting to set improvement priorities.

Although there’s been discussion at the Haines Borough about major upgrades to the center, Sebens said he’s confident about its future.

“I don’t think it’s falling down any more. It’s got a brand new roof. In talking to granting agencies, we’re going to say, ‘(The borough) is maintaining the building. It’s going to be here for a long time.”

Warshaw’s estimate doesn’t include labor, work on stage curtains or improvements to the infrared listening system, he said.