An Amphitheater for Children and the Community
By Fred Mayo
From Issue 30: Spring 2016
If you have a dream and share it, it might just happen! Last summer, Liz Burdick, fourth grade teacher at Lenape School, was talking with new Lenape Principal Audrey Wood about the importance of drama and theater in education, and the lack of performance space. The principal replied that Lenape needed an amphitheater. The next day, the Duzine/Lenape PTA President Jenn Voorhis got involved and now, thanks to the excitement and commitment of the parents and teachers at Lenape, an amphitheater has been designed, approvals are being sought, fund raising is being launched and Liz Burdick says, “I always wanted to see an amphitheater at school —to have an outdoor theatrical space—and now the dream is going to happen.”
The proposed amphitheater will have a portable, storable band shell and will offer Lenape students a place to perform theatrical pieces, act out aspects of subjects they are learning in school, practice and present musical events and dance activities, and engage in outdoor learning activities. The space will also be available for community groups during the summer and at other times when not in use by the school.
Designed by Justin Dates of Maser Consulting P.A. in Newburgh and being built by Mark Masseo of Masseo Landscaping, Inc., the amphitheater will be built into the naturally sloping land right outside the gymnasium and cafeteria at Lenape. It will have five tiers in a circular pattern and seat up to 500, though it is also designed to be suitable for smaller groups sitting in just the first few rows. Plans call for surrounding the amphitheater with low maintenance porous stone and natural greenery.
It is truly a community project since both Justin Dates and Mark Masseo are local residents who graduated from the New Paltz schools, and the stone for the seats will be created by David Kucera, Inc., located on Steve’s Lane in Gardiner.
In less than one year, this project has produced a great deal of excitement among teachers and administrators at Lenape and throughout the school district. Last December, the Board of Education gave it conceptual approval, and a group of nine dedicated individuals—Liz Burdick, Jennifer Castle, Patricia Culp, Kim Helmstter, Mark Masseo, Kendra Soule, Rich Souto, Jennifer Voorhis, and Audrey Wood—have been working on the project since then.
And the excitement is growing; as Jennifer Voorhis, President of the Duzine-Lenape PTA said, “This amphitheater is an opportunity for the community at large—both New Paltz and Gardiner residents and people connected with all four schools—to support something wonderful to enrich the lives of children and everyone in the community who uses the amphitheater.”
The committee must now raise the $ 150,000 needed. There is already a GOFUNDME page started, and in April, the New Paltz United Teachers and the Parent Teachers Association organized a fundraising Sing Along, held in the High School Auditorium, at which children from Lenape and adults in the community performed songs from “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” Grants are being explored and, in September, the group will launch an online silent auction. They have also ordered 4,000 engravable bricks which are being sold for $200 to be placed between rows of seats. You can help by sending your check made out to the Duzine-Lenape PTA (with “amphitheater” on the memo line) to Lenape School PTA, 196 Main Street, New Paltz, NY 12561 or donate through the website www.newpaltzamp.org.