Fairfield school boasts one of region’s most modern theaters

As one of the premier student performing school districts in Southwest Ohio, Butler County’s Fairfield Schools is making full use of a second auditorium.

The theater in the Fairfield Freshman School, which opened last year, is proving to be an artistic asset to students at the school, those at the adjacent high school and to community groups and speakers, said school officials.

Last year the nationally famous Choraliers celebrated its 50th anniversary, but now the feeder, freshman school has one of the most modern performance auditoriums in the region, said Freshman School Principal Michael Berkemeier.

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“For them (students) to have this type of facility shows the level of commitment we have as a community,” said Berkemeier as he stood in the 380-seat theater, whose “thrust” stage protrudes slightly into the audience area.

The unusual configuration brings a greater intimacy to student and other productions, he said, and the theatre was designed so that anyone sitting in the back row will be roughly eye-level to the performers on stage.

The freshman theater is less than half the size of the high school’s massive auditorium, which seats 800.

The larger, high school performance center is the home of Fairfield’s acclaimed show chorus — The Choraliers — who in 2012 won honors in the World Choir Games held that year in Cincinnati.

Last year The Choraliers were named Grand Champions at the Wapakoneta, Ohio show choir competition.

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“The smaller space was by design because the district didn’t need another 800-seat venue. So if we have smaller performances, guest speakers — as a performer and a guest speaker this is a great size and there’s no bad seat,” said Berkemeier.

The theater also has been the site of numerous, non-performing events, he said, including English As A Second Language events, author visits, a mental health speakers series, youth coalition events and junior national honor society gatherings.

Rachael Finnerty, a ninth grade member of the Freshman School’s Drama Club, recently acted on the stage in the school’s production of “Pride and Prejudice.”

The theater’s state-of-the-art lighting and acoustics and back-stage equipment left her impressed and inspired to continue to explore her love of theater.

“It’s really great because the lights are very unique and you can get cool effects. There’s a couple of spots on stage where you can whisper something and the whole audience can hear it,” said Finnerty.

“I appreciate the theater a lot and a lot of schools don’t have a place like this. It’s really cool to see that I can do whatever I want to do with theater here,” she said.

Classmate and fellow thespian Braden Alfrey said, “you don’t often get a new stage to perform on.”

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