LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park High School is making a last-minute push for online votes that could win the school $50,000 to replace the auditorium's half-century-old failing lighting system.
The school is in fifth place out of about 2,500 schools nationwide that are vying for the grant from Clorox — a prize that would give students enrolled in the highly-touted performance arts program a viable venue.
During last year's production of the musical "Hairspray," the lights cut out during the opening number and the student actors and audience sat in the dark for five minutes, said Lise Gilly, the school's performance arts department chair.
"It's just sad," she said. "We are the number two performing arts program in Illinois, but our lights are completely substandard."
Anyone can vote once online and once through a text in a 24-hour period, and some teachers at the school are letting students text during class in a final push before the Dec. 19 deadline.
"We all laugh because it's literally held together with Band Aids," Kelly Faso, the president of the school's Band and Orchestra organization, said of the lighting system installed in 1962.
The school, which has a selective admission performing arts curriculum, was able to obtain a federal grant last year that outfitted the auditorium with new seats and made it wheelchair accessible, but the lights remain problematic.
Because it takes 15 minutes for the main theater lights to come on, they must remain lit during performances rather than using just the lights on the stage, Gilly said. As for the stage lights, only about half of them are functioning, leaving parts of the stage in shadows or in the dark during performances.
A lighting consultant recently inspected the auditorium and gave the school an estimated cost of $45,000 for a complete rehab, according to Gilly.
"We have huge pieces of equipment that look like they are from Frankenstein's lab," she said. "It's crazy. There are exposed circuits on the stage."
The school will learn in January whether it has won the grant, but for now the show must go on in the shadows with a band holiday concert scheduled for Wednesday and a choir holiday concert on Thursday.
Text message 2174pbf to 95248 to cast a vote or vote online at this link.
"We need that little extra boost," Gilly said.