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COLUMBIA – Recent renovations to Hickman High School’s Fine Arts Department has helped students perform and produce shows at a higher quality.

Vicki Palmer, Hickman’s technical director and auditorium manager, said improvements included electrical upgrades, a new sound system and more energy efficient lighting among other things. 

“All the equipment was over fifteen years old, which in today’s technology that’s pretty ancient. So having a good sound system means no longer do we have an issue with hearing our actors and our musicians,” Palmer said ahead of Hickman’s Thursday evening performance of Pippin.

All of the renovations took place this past summer, and according to CPS Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark, the project cost $350,000 to replace the electrical and sound systems in the auditorium.

In regards to seeing the impact, Palmer said it’s an ironic feeling because she talks with her technical staff and almost feels like there is something missing.

“I feel like I should be listening to all these sound issues we have typically had in the past for so long, and now I don’t have to listen for that,” she said. “It’s a state of the art system and it just works.”

Palmer also said the communications system is new, which has made communication from backstage to front of the house to actors more efficient and effective with the performances.

“We do a lot of really great shows and having that piece missing sometimes doesn’t allow the audience to see and hear everything that we can do,” she said. “Well now we’re able to give that to the audience.”

Sophia Casto, a senior at Hickman, said she can definitely see and feel the improvements.

“The sound has been a huge improvement,” she said. “You don’t have to work or strain yourself quite so much to be heard. It’s been a lot less stressful during show week.”

At the end of the day, Casto said the improvements allow for the performance of a better story.

“Storytelling is really important to me because I think it’s a great way to communicate ideas and be able to stop seeing people as abstractions. It’s a really great experience all in all.”

Payton Oswalt is another senior involved in theatre who has used both the old and now new equipment.

“We have brand new things where we don’t have issues like we used to,” he said.

“It’s a big change and it’s not something we’re used to, but it’s something we’re grateful for. It’s a miracle how much easier it is now.”

Palmer also added how valuable the arts are for students.

“It is so important. We are very fortunate here at Hickman that we have an incredible fine arts department,” she said. “We all work really well together and we’re a big family and students know that and appreciate that, so to give them the experience educationally as well as artistically is really important.”

The theatre team will continue with its three-night production Friday and Saturday. Casto is an actress in the show and Oswalt is a behind-the-scenes technical director.

In addition to Friday’s performance, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the recent renovations. All events will take place at Hickman starting at 7:00 p.m.