It’s no secret that Woodrow Wilson High School puts on one heck of a show each spring, and it’s not just the onstage talent that awes audiences. Last year, The “Sound of Music” set was so stunning, the crowd gasped and cheered before an actor even appeared. It takes a ton of work to bring such professional productions to the high school’s stage year after year. We visited the school to find out how students, staff and volunteers are preparing for opening night of “The Secret Garden”, April 16. Inside the school, there’s much hustle and bustle for a Monday night, and lovely young voices fill the gymnasium. The singers stop and look up from notebooks as the man up front tells them “no more scripts after this week”. They grumble and resume rehearsal. They are captivating — but the real action is down the hall. Screaming power drills, nail-gun shots and necessarily loud voices spill out of the auditorium. Sawdust covers the stage floor and students are scarce. It’s mostly dads — some contractors, engineers and builders by profession — constructing the set. Once they finish building a piece, Diana Goldberg and her team of artists take over, turning towering blocks of plywood into elegant 19th century brick pillars, for instance. Then there’s a prop manager, Luann Shank, who will figure out “how to turn a dead garden into a beautiful lush garden before the audience’s eyes,” she explains. The artists and builders typically work alternate nights up until the last few weeks before the play, when everyone is working all the time. Goldberg, who has been doing this for years, estimates that, all told, the volunteers spend about 400 hours building a typical set. The motivation? Set-builder Sam Harrington, who deals in construction equipment by day, is like many — but not all — of the workers and has children in the play (his daughter plays Lily Craven). Plus, he says, “I like hanging out with the other dads.” Altogether, it takes about 100 students and all sorts of volunteers to make this thing work, says Joyce Miller, the musical chair. “It’s fun for the adults too, it builds camaraderie, community time together, and it’s neat to be part of something of this magnitude.”

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