Wishing you peace,
love and joy
this Holiday Season.
COURIER L 12 IFE, DEC. 18–24, 2020 M BR B G
auditorium to give new
life to Gravesend school
A rendering of the new theater at John Dewey High School. Councilman Mark Treyger’s Offi ce
BY ROSE ADAMS
Students at a southern Brooklyn
high school will soon have one of the
best school auditoriums in the city
when workers complete a $7.5 renovation
of the sprawling space.
The renovations at Gravesend’s
John Dewey High School will revive
a performance space that’s known to
be one of southern Brooklyn’s main
stages, according to one theater educator.
“John Dewey High School — for
everyone who comes from southern
Brooklyn and grew up here — that was
the stage to be on,” said Sara Steinweiss,
a former theater teacher at New Utrecht
High School who taught “Hamilton”
star Anthony Ramos. “Thats where I
did my fi rst dance recital.”
Though the school’s auditorium has
been largest in Brooklyn for years, the
space has slipped into disrepair over
the years, offi cials said.
The theater’s decline came amid a
diffi cult period for John Dewey. Though
in its earlier years, the school boasted a
progressive pedagogy and was named
by Newsweek as one of the country’s
best high schools in 2008 and 2009, by the
early 2010s, it faced falling enrollment,
a rising drop-out rate, and funding cuts
to its extracurricular programs.
The school nearly closed about
seven years ago, but area Councilman
Mark Treyger and other school leaders
worked to keep it alive, Treyger said.
“When I took offi ce, John Dewey
was going through a very tumultuous
period. There was very low staff morale,”
said Treyger, who funded the theater
upgrades. “I remember visiting the
Dewey campus, and I saw a building
that needed a lot of love, investment,
The school has pulled out of its most
diffi cult era under principal Connie
Hamilton, who took the helm in 2015,
but many of its facilities remain outdated,
To help modernize the space, Hamilton
and her team began working with
the local politician and former educator
a couple of years ago to brainstorm
infrastructural improvements, he said.
The group put renovations of the auditorium
and culinary kitchen at the top
of the list.
The culinary kitchen received its $3
million in upgrades last year, but the
school planned an even more ambitious
renovation of the auditorium.
“They gave us a vision and it was
certainly ambitious in terms of cost,”
Treyger said, adding that he wanted
the auditorium to rival LaGuardia
High School’s famously state-of-the-art
John Dewey’s theater will receive an
air conditioning system, a new and improved
stage, seating, lighting, dressing
rooms, acoustic cushioning, and spaces
that will be used for sound control, stage
design, and music.
The theater will also be ADA-compliant
will be have state-of-the-art
sound equipment that help people with
hearing impairments by transmitting
sound directly to hearing aids.
Steinweiss, who helped advise Treyger
on the improvements, said the new
auditorium won’t only serve as a performance
space, but as a key educational
“Most individuals who are not in
education do not always view arts education
with the importance it has,” she
said, stressing the community-building
and problem-solving skills theater
teaches students. “It becomes so much
more than ‘Oh you guys put on a play.’
You built a whole individual.”
Steinweiss added that she wishes she
could have worked in an auditorium
like John Dewey’s.
“It’s every theater educator’s dream
to perform on that stage and work in a
space like this,” she said.
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