By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
The theatre at the Mack Lyon Middle School was put back in business last week. Thanks to volunteer efforts and a strong dose of funding from local organizations, the aging facility got a brand new, state-of-the-art, stage lighting system.
This essential upgrade didn’t come a moment too soon. In fact, it was just in time for the big annual production by the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT) which takes place this weekend in the theatre.
The MCT production, which stars local children who spend the week auditioning and rehearsing for the performance, is presented to the community each year by the Moapa Valley Performing Arts Council (MVPAC).
MVPAC president Lance Mortensen explained that, as the date for the production approached, the arts council found itself in a real bind.
“At the beginning of our season we were made aware of a major issue that affected the booking of the Missoula Children’s Theatre,” Mortensen said. “The stage lighting system had become worn out and inoperable. No one knows exactly how old it is. But we guessed that it was over 50 years old.”
Without the stage lighting, it was feared that this weekend’s show would simply not be able to go on.
Mortensen went to Mack Lyon Middle School principal Ken Paul with the problem. Paul made a request for Clark County School District staff to come and take a look at the broken system. But it quickly became apparent that the old system could not be fixed. What’s more, no facilities money could be made available to replace it.
“The stage lighting is actually considered above the standard for a middle school by the district,” Paul said. “The only reason why we had it at all was because this used to be the high school. So it had a theatre and lighting already here. But nothing had been updated since that time years ago.”
Nevertheless, the date for the Missoula performance was fast approaching. And Mortensen wasn’t giving up on it. He assembled a group of local organizations interested in helping to fund a new stage lighting system.
Paul was able to devote some school discretionary funds to start things off. These funds came from rebate dollars that the school had received from the district for conservation efforts on the school’s general utility use.
Mortensen also went to the Moapa Valley Television District for some funding. The TV District was interest in helping with stage lighting because it would provide a system that could be used by the school’s TV station.
“What a great educational benefit to have kids getting hands-on learning in programming stage lights,” said Moapa Valley TV District board member Daniel Pray. “We just thought that this would be a great asset to the school and the community.”
Also adding funding was the Ron and Linda Mortensen Education Foundation and, of course, the Moapa Valley Performing Arts Council.
All together, $4,000 was raised for the new system. And at least an additional $4,000 worth of donated time was volunteered in installing the new system, Mortensen said. Helping to design and install the new system were Mortensen himself, Daniel Pray and Lyon Middle School TV station teacher Elwin Brown.
“The new LED lights are quiet and run cool and use 1/10 the power of the old lights,” Mortensen said. “In fact, the 10 new spotlights use basically the same amount of power as just one of the old spot lights.”
In addition, the new lights are all computer controlled, and can create thousands of different colors, including ultraviolet to give blacklight effects.
“There is no longer a need to go up and change out the color gels on each light to switch out the colors,” Mortensen said. “Now they can be controlled from a laptop computer.”
Paul expressed tremendous gratitude for the efforts in providing the new system to the school.
“It was just a great community effort,” Paul said. “A lot of different people coming together. It just shows again how much this community cares about its schools and education.”