Originally Published: September 29, 2010 9:35 a.m.
Where once the sounds of whinnying and stamping hooves echoed, laughter and applause now prevail. The Orme School recently remodeled what originally was a barn built in 1915 into an up-to-date theater.
About 50 current and former parents, alumni, trustees, faculty, staff and students attended a rededication of the nearly completed Buck Hart Horsecollar Theater on Saturday, Sept. 18.
Orme's first drama teacher, William S. "Buck" Hart, Jr., in 1959 asked Charlie Orme if he could turn the barn into a theater, said Orme Chief Financial Officer Bil Zeleny, who also served as the current theater's project manager.
"It still had a dirt floor, and when hay seeds dropped from the mow, hay grew on the floor," added Sue Iverson, Orme's director of alumni relations. "It was the only theater in the world you had to mow."
Hart, now 85, later served as Dean of Students and camp director, and ended his career as Orme's headmaster. Hart and his wife, Jan, were among the honored guests at the ceremony.
Other honored guests included Dr. John and Tamra Hege, the parents of the late John Raymond Hege, from Orme's class of 1986. John Hege, Jr., an Oakland, Calif., police officer, was killed in the line of duty in March 2009. In his honor, his parents contributed $100,000 to the theater's renovation.
"Our plan was to renovate while keeping the original structure and features," said Zeleny. "We redid the complete interior from floor to ceiling, with new chairs, lighting and roof."
The theater's new movable seats yield a variety of configurations and occupancy of 200. Theater in the round and even dinner theater are possibilities.
The biggest nod to technology is the power-mounted screen, for viewing films.
But planners did not lose the old structure's integrity.
"One of the emphases of the school is sustainability - to take things from the past and make them new again," Zeleny said. "We wanted to keep the atmosphere of the theater that was once a barn, and make it a pleasant place for children to do drama."
Circa 1950s knobby milk glass and black wrought iron sconces with horseshoe attachments were cleaned up and reattached on either side of the auditorium.
Outside, wagon wheel light fixtures illuminate the entrance, and a skeleton structure that once was a feeding trough remains.
"We took out the huge sliding windows where they used to pitchfork hay from inside to the horses outside," said Iverson.
From now on, Orme's students will pitch only entertainment from the historic structure.