The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

Chloe’s Creations

Sophomore Chloe Donovan’s passion for building holiday displays and furniture has allowed her to connect with her family, community and the technical aspect of theater arts.
Photo by Chloe Donovan

Eyes shining with wonder, children outfitted in witch hats and superhero masks look up at the pirate ship looming above them. It’s Halloween, and the kids are awed by one of the many holiday displays that sophomore Chloe Donovan built with her family.

At her house, Chloe has constructed an Irish pub, a working Ferris wheel, a sea monster and everything in between. Since the age of nine, she’s been working with her father and younger sister to design and build extravagant wooden holiday displays, furniture and more. 

“The first project [we built] was our Christmas train,” Donovan said. “I love that one because all the kids in my neighborhood know our house for it now. They’ll come by every night to come see the display, and it’s really sweet.”

Michael Donovan, Chloe’s father, is a former Disney Imagineer who worked on designing theme parks around the world. He chose their current home with the intention of utilizing the yard for holiday decorations, and he wanted to get his daughters involved.

“Someone told me once to treat your daughters as if they’re your sons, in terms of [not treating] them with gender bias. They can do anything, so let them do anything. [I tell them to] hammer nails, paint this, cut that, saw this, drill that, stand up on that ladder and screw this in,” Michael Donovan said.

Donovan is “grateful” to her dad for pushing her outside of her comfort zone. Building together has given them the opportunity to connect and build a stronger relationship.

“Before I got into [building], we had football, but that was about it as far as common interests. Now I work on these projects with him, and I understand it, so he can talk to me and I can talk to him about it,” Donovan said. “When I got into theater, he was super proud of me. It was really cool to see all the things I do there and how I can bring it back into our house and help him with the displays. It just brought us closer together, and we can understand each other a bit more.”

At the end of Donovan’s freshman year, she joined the school theater build crew. She was able to translate the skills learned from building holiday displays and furniture for her house to constructing sets and props for their productions, even using pictures of her displays in her application.

“I was glad I had the experience beforehand, because the build crew can be competitive sometimes. Any experience is good, and having that much experience really helped me,” Donovan said.

According to Donovan, she came in “overqualified” for the job, but still doubted herself. She had a lot to learn about being in build crew, even with her prior knowledge.

“I’m most proud of the barricade we did for “Les Misérables.” That was really fun. I think I’m really proud of that one because it was like my first big [project] at the theater,” Donovan said. “It wasn’t the coolest or hardest thing to build, but to finish it proved to myself that I can do it and I can stay in this crew. I’m capable.”

The foreman of build crew, junior Alaka’i Jellings, was impressed with Donovan when she joined, saying she “never disappointed.” Her experience and personality spurred him to appoint Donovan as Assistant Lead.

“She’s good with people. I think it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t work well with Chloe. She knows how to lead a crew,” Jellings said. “She’s good at what she does, and that’s why I chose her. It worked out great.”

In addition to enabling her to participate in theater, Michael Donovan observed that learning construction and carpentry has helped Donovan become more self-assured and stop underestimating herself.

“One of the challenges that I had with her several years back was that she wasn’t confident enough. I have until she’s 18 and goes off to college, and she has to have confidence. I want to help build her confidence, and one of the ways I do that is giving her tasks that she thinks she can’t handle, but she can,” Michael Donovan said. “Now she’s willing to take on things, and she’s not as scared or intimidated. She’s glad that I gave her these things to do and that she got involved, because now she can use these skills at theater.”

Jellings has also seen Donovan having more faith in herself in his time of knowing her at the theater, noting she has become “more comfortable” in a once unfamiliar and intimidating setting.

“I’ve gotten to know her better since when I first met her, and I’ve definitely seen her grow,” Jellings said. “[One of her] major personality traits is confidence. She can really go into anything, and she’s ready to learn and do what she needs to do. I really value that.”

Personal growth and connecting with her family are all important to Donovan, but to her, the best part of construction is seeing other people experiencing and enjoying them. She especially enjoys seeing how children in her neighborhood react and interact with her holiday displays.

“You can hear the kids outside from my window in my house, and they totally love the displays,” Donovan said. “That’s the best part […] It’s really rewarding to see how much they enjoy the display, especially when they come back every year.”

“She’s good with people. I think it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t work well with Chloe. She knows how to lead a crew. She’s good at what she does, and that’s why I chose her. It worked out great.”

— Alaka'i Jellings, 11th

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About the Contributor
Kate Brucia
Kate Brucia, Staff Writer
I’m new to High Tide, as this is my first year here, so excited! I’m also in ASB and the golf team. I'm a huge Swiftie! I love baking and crafting. My favorite holiday is Christmas.

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