'Dream come true': Torrey Pines breaks ground on performing arts center

For the last 27 years, theater teacher Marinee Payne has been visualizing the day when Torrey Pines High School would finally get its performing arts center, as it was the only high school campus in the district without one. Payne said she shed tears all summer after the old campus buildings came down in preparation for the center to begin construction this fall.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Nov. 3 on the new 30,623 square-foot building that will be a new home to Torrey Pines Players, singers, dancers and musicians, a program with a history of 27 years and beyond of performers.

“Thank you so much for a dream come true,” said a tearful Payne. “I’m going to have so much fun watching the dirt give birth to something beautiful.”

The curtains are set to rise on the new $24 million performing arts center in 2019, which will feature a performing arts center building and music/dance building linked by a central plaza designed as a small outdoor performing space. The arts center will include a proscenium theater, a black box theatre, scene shop, green room, dressing rooms and other various auxiliary rooms in support of theater operations. The music building will include an office, seven practice rooms and an instrrument storage room. The dance room will also have its own storage and an office. Additionally, the south wall of the music building will open up to the existing quad/amphitheater space for additional outdoor performance space.

“Twenty-seven years ago, there was a dream. Twenty-seven years worth of students have passed through that black box and they’ve lived that dream, they’ve believed that dream. Everything that they did, every contribution they made, every screw they screwed in, every stitch they stitched, every line that they learned was to build a dream,” Payne said. “Without those students that have come before and those that are here now, there would be no dream. This belongs to them, their hearts, souls, energy, time and the love they gave because they loved the magic of the Box. They are the magic.”

While to Payne the performing arts center is 27 years in the making, for the school it’s a project that has been 43 years in the making. Principal Rob Coppo said the groundbreaking was a very special moment for the school, students and the community, noting that the project would not be possible without Prop AA and all the voters who supported the bond initiative.

“This project embodies the spirit of Prop AA and the spirit of San Dieguito Union High School District in providing equal access and opportunities to all of our students, no matter what school they go to,” Superintendent Eric Dill said.

Coppo, a former president of the Torrey Pines Players when he was a student, said he was thrilled that the program was finally getting the upgrade it deserved. He recalls the program’s early days in the lecture hall before moving the Black Box Theatre.

“Without the arts program at Torrey Pines High School I wouldn’t be standing here right now, I’m a living example of the difference that the arts can make and the opportunities this very school provides,” Coppo said. “What happens at this campus is special and has been for a very long time and now not only will it be a new venue for talented thespians but dance and music programs will all also have new classrooms and share new homes for performances...the impact this space will have on [student] lives will be immeasurable.”

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