When the Springer Opera House production of "Sweeney Todd" opens Thursday, the talent, dedication and generosity of some Columbus Technical College students will be on stage, but they won't be acting or singing.
They are welders. And thanks to their volunteer work, Springer technical director Will Randall received the emergency help he needed to build the show’s sets. Columbus Tech adjunct welding instructor Tim Vinson answered the emailed call for help from Springer community outreach director Aileen Fowles, and every one of the 28 welding students he asked agreed to donate their time for the real-world chance to apply their skills for a greater good.
"I talked with them about the Springer Opera House and the great things they've done for our community," Vinson explained. "Now, we're being asked to do something for our community."
Within their four-day deadline, they turned about 1,500 feet of steel tubing into the mobile framework of platforms and staircases envisioned for the show. Vinson, whose full-time job is director of Work-Based Learning for the Muscogee County School District, called this project among the highlights of his 26 years as an educator, which includes being named the district's 2006 Teacher of the Year when he was a metals technology instructor at Jordan Vocational High School.
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"There are times in your life that you will always remember," Vinson said, "and this is one of those times, when a good group of people came together for a common goal for a community even. I was blown away. They were committed. They worked as a team. They took pride in it."
And they did it for free.
"In fact," Randall said, "we had to insist they accept complimentary tickets for their work."
Wilmer Escorcia, 32, never has attended a show at the Springer, but he is among the Columbus Tech students who will be in the audience because of this experience.
"It'll really be great to see something we fabricated in the shop end up on the stage," Escorcia said. " Helping someone in need, it brought the welding shop together to get this mission done."
Randall hopes his Springer crew of four to six can use Columbus Tech's expertise on other shows - but on purpose, not because of an emergency.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for another addition to our community connections," Randall said. "If I get another set design that's too large or complicated, now we can handle this."
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.