Crane Country Day School recently unveiled its renovated theater building, marking the culmination of a 7½-month-long transformation.
The revamped space, now known as the Wolf Performing Arts Center (Wolf PAC), was introduced during an opening celebration attended by current and former families and faculty, and included performances by three Crane alumni.
Joel Weiss, the head of school, said the upgrades exceeded his expectations, noting the changes preserved the cherished aspects of the original design, while incorporating modern technology and expanding the physical space.
“We have many beautiful aspects to our campus, but I think everyone would agree that what happens in this space represents the heart of the school,” Weiss said.
Seating capacity has grown from 220 to 298, and the Lewis-Towbes Tech Booth, now expanded and renamed, serves as a classroom accommodating up to 20 students.
The renovation introduced efficient lighting, raked seating for improved visibility, upholstered seats, a high-powered HVAC system, state-of-the-art acoustics, solar roof, assistive listening for those with hearing loss, and full ADA compliance.
Changes include the new Levinson Lobby, named for the long support of former trustee Jill Levinson, who along with Crane parents, faculty and donors, such as Dick Wolf, Carrie Towbes and husband, John Lewis, enjoyed the evening’s festivities.
As part of the celebration, three Crane alumni, who have careers in the arts, returned to campus to perform for the audience.
Josh Duvendeck (’00) is a company member of the Groundlings Theater, where he writes and performs improv and sketch comedy. Duvendeck shared an original sketch, as well as reflections on his time at Crane.
“My love of performing started right here on this Crane stage,” he said. “Students were given so many opportunities to perform and I always felt safe and supported by classmates and teachers, really enabling me to overcome the shyness of my sixth-grade self.”
Jana McIntyre (’06) is a professional opera singer whose recent roles have included performances at the Bard SummerScape, Strauss’s “Daphne” at Carnegie Hall, and as Cinderella in “Into the Woods” for the Tulsa Opera.
“I can’t talk about my childhood without talking about Crane,” said McIntyre who spent nine years at the school. “The thing I really came to appreciate about Crane is that the school breeds individuals.
“My experiences at Crane gave me the confidence to go out into the world and follow my passion. The theater was a sanctuary for me; my singing started here, and I am immensely grateful to Crane for fostering my growth and individualism.”
Morgan Neville (’81), worked as a journalist before moving into film in 1993. He formed his own documentary production company Tremolo Productions six years later, and has produced “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “Roadrunner: The Life of Anthony Bourdain,” and his latest “Saint of Second Chances” currently streaming on Netflix.
Neville said it was great to be back on the stage where he got his start as a second-grader.
“The first film I ever made — a zombie apocalypse Super 8 short — was screened publicly in this room,” said Neville. “It’s incredible how much Crane nurtures people’s passions and how things really come full circle.
“The seeds of many of my passions — baseball, journalism, filmmaking — were planted here at Crane, and I’m so thankful for having that experience. It was the foundation I needed and it continues to sprout new growth.”
The event closed with a song by fifth-graders Layla Cocong and Harper Alexander.
“There’s a lot of talented students at Crane,” said Weiss, “But more than what happens on the stage is what is happening in the audience: we come together as a community watching others take risks and it’s really powerful to share that experience, which anchors and connects us, before we disperse for the day.”
The original theater, built in 1957, was named Cate Hall in honor of Katharine Thayer Cate. In 1985 the original theater expanded, adding the Katharine Faletti Music Room and permanent seating.
In 1998, to celebrate the school’s 70th anniversary, more seats were added and the Tech Booth became a central feature; the upgraded facility was called the Barbakow Family Theater.
Crane Country Day School is a co-educational K–8th grade independent school in Montecito. To learn more, visit https://www.craneschool.org.