NAC’s old seats get second act at school

pg09-a-seatsWoodroffe High School principal Bill Arden relaxes in one of the 720 cushioned seats the school received from the National Arts Centre after the downtown performance centre refurbished its theatre. Lysia Filotas, Centretown NewsStudents, teachers and parents at Woodroffe High School can sit back and relax after the National Arts Centre donated 720 of its old seats for installation in the west-end school’s aged auditorium.

Heather Esdon, a member of the school’s parent council, was attending a show at the NAC’s Southam Hall when she heard that the NAC would be undergoing renovations over the summer. Edson wanted to know what would become of the 1,300 seats in the theatre.

“I was sitting at the NAC last spring as a Broadway season ticket holder wondering what they would do with their old seats once they took them out,” Edson said. “So I asked… and they replied saying we would be considered (for the donation).”

The project was then turned over to the school administration.

Woodroffe High principal Bill Arden said the school had been considering organizing a fundraiser to renovate its badly worn auditorium prior to the donation.

“It looked a lot like ’70s décor. It was sort of plastic and orange, with the stuffing coming out of the foam,” said Arden. “The seats definitely needed replacing. It was a sight for sore eyes.” 

Before the project could go any further, it had to be approved by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. 

Board engineers needed to assess the NAC seats and the school’s auditorium to ensure they were of the right fit and curvature before beginning the renovation. 

It was a job, said Arden, that usually takes the board around three years to complete.

In June, the NAC told Woodroffe the seats were all theirs, as long as they were collected by July 1. This posed another obstacle: where would the school store 720 seats before they were ready to renovate?

After brainstorming among the staff, the parent council and the school board, the seats were properly stowed until it was time to renovate. 

The school was able to accelerate the required work orders and have the seats picked up and delivered for storage, and returned in time for the renovation.  

Once they had received the seats, the school decided to give the auditorium a total makeover. The donation from the NAC rushed all of the jobs that the school would normally be on a long waiting list for. The renovation crew introduced a new colour scheme, painted the walls, redid the carpets and added wheelchair accessibility.

Adler said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Everyone loves it. We’ve gotten rave reviews for the job we’ve done,” said Adler. “We are so grateful to the NAC and we’re happy that the seats are bringing new life into our auditorium.”

The auditorium was scheduled to officially open to the community with the staging of the school’s musical production of The Addams Family, which ran Dec. 8-11. 

The high schoolers won’t be the only ones enjoying the comfortable chairs. The NAC also donated some of its old seats to community theatres across Canada. The Studio Theatre in Perth, about an hour west of Ottawa, received 200 of the seats, while the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, N.S., received 450 seats. 

“We are so pleased,” NAC president Peter Herrndorf said in a press release, “that the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall seats will help extend the lives of three wonderful theatres in Perth, Ottawa and Liverpool, N.S.”