Bay Area Proud

From Dramas to Desks: South Bay Set Designer Uses Talents to Help Remote Learners

Andrew Breithaupt has turned West Valley College Theater's scene shop into a mini-factory, creating desks for remote learners who need them

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So much has changed these past nine months, it's always a bit of a shock to stumble across a spot where absolutely nothing has changed since March.

The stage at West Valley College Theater is one of those places.

"This is the set that has yet to be used," said set designer Andrew Breithaupt, pointing to a fully-constructed theater set for the comedy, Scapino, that was supposed to have had its run in the spring. That is, until COVID-19 shuttered every theater from Broadway to the Bay Area.

"It's painted and ready for a show that never happened," Breithaupt said.

Breithaupt has been the set designer and builder for West Valley's productions for the past five years. Still, while time may have stood still in the theater, Breithaupt has been keeping active the backstage scene shop.

He has been making desks — simply constructed ones — to be given free of charge to remote learners who need space to learn.

Breithaupt got the idea after watching a video of a father who made similar desks for his children.

"As soon as I saw it, light bulb. This is something I can tangibly do to help," Breithaupt said.

Andrew drew up plans based on the father's work, modifying them so that five desks could be constructed out of two sheets of plywood. He arranged for materials to be donated, most often from his local Home Depot store, and with the volunteer help from the school and community, he started making the desks.

They have already constructed 80 desks, with enough material for 80 more.

Once completed, Breithaupt has been delivering them to Campbell Union School District, which has had no problem finding takers among their students.

"We’ve heard that it makes a difference. The kids are able to focus," Breithaupt said. "They’re not at the dining room table, kitchen table, surrounded by family, dogs, noise, distraction. They can find an area of their own and the parents say it makes a difference."

Breithaupt hopes others are inspired by his actions, just as he was by the video he watched, and begin crafting desks for children in their community. He has posted step-by-step instructions to make it easy for anyone who wishes to give it a try.

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