Enthusiastic supporters of Wakefield School in The Plains, particularly those with a passion for the performing arts in education, gathered on the evening of Saturday, February 26, for an exciting and long-anticipated event--the ribbon-cutting and dedication of the newly-completed George L. Ohrstrom Jr. Theater & Auditorium on the Wakefield campus.
Wakefield alumna Molly Dunning Ohrstrom ’86, her husband Clarke Ohrstrom, and the George L. Ohrstrom Jr. Foundation provided the lead gift that made both the remaining fundraising and the facility’s construction possible.
In her remarks before the ribbon-cutting, Wakefield Head of School Ashley Harper said, “This space has been a vision in the making for nearly a decade, and thanks to the support of so many in this room and the vision and dedication of Molly and Clarke and the entire Ohrstrom family, we are incredibly privileged to be here tonight… Molly and Clarke have, from the beginning, been stalwart supporters and quiet leaders of all things Wakefield. Their understanding of how to build community while meeting the needs for campus growth and the very best facilities and programs for our students cannot be overstated.”
The GLO's creation, achieved by the retrofitting of an existing gymnasium into a state-of-the-art performance and event space, represents the final phase of Wakefield's 25-year buildout of its campus in The Plains, and also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the school's founding. According to Communications Associate Tutt Stapp-McKiernan, the longest-serving member of Wakefield’s faculty and staff, “This is a moment of great pride for our whole school community, as well as for key drivers of the GLO project.”
In addition to Harper, those drivers included Director of Development Ann-Charlotte Robinson, who conceived of the renovation years ago and guided the capital campaign that funded its construction; the Board of Trustees, under the spirited leadership of Chair Eileen Quenell; and specifically, Trustee and former theater professional Piers Carey, a longtime parent performer in Wakefield’s annual Archwood Community Theater productions, who spearheaded the complex GLO renovation and personally oversaw its every detail, from start to finish.
“To the great fortune of Wakefield School,” said Harper in her remarks of appreciation for Carey, “this project brought together Piers’s passion for theater, his mild obsession with all things audio/visual, his technical expertise, and his impressive devotion to detail.”
She continued by recounting Carey’s reply when she commented to him about the legacy he was leaving with this theater and all of the opportunities it would provide Wakefield students of the future. “Immediately,” she recalled, “in classic Piers fashion, he said, ‘Well, it’s a bit like the line from Hamilton, isn’t it? What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.’ ”
This prefaced Harper’s surprise announcement that the school was naming the new stage “The Piers Carey Stage” in honor of his contributions.
Following the dedication, ticket-holders enjoyed a gala dinner and cabaret performance in, and on, the newly-christened facility and stage, featuring alumni, parent, and faculty reprises of their musical performances from past Archwood Community Theater productions. Musicals represented included Camelot, Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Oliver!, Wicked, Spamalot, Jekyll and Hyde, Into the Woods, and The Wizard of Oz.
As a finale, current Upper School students now in rehearsal for Grease, which will be the first official Wakefield Theater production to be staged in the GLO in April, gave a preview of one of the show’s big numbers, complete with poodle skirts, white tee shirts, and--well, grease. And the show ended with the entire cast on stage, led by senior Sophia Carey and her dad, as they sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Spamalot.
To broaden the big celebration even further, on the Friday evening before the gala, a free and less-formal Preview Performance was given for students, faculty and staff, and parents, in which adult roles were minimized and groups of students from all three divisions got to perform to a full house in their grand new space.