My own experienced of theatre at SJCHS begins in 1988, when I began my career here as a teacher. Prior to that, I depend on yearbooks to tell me that the gymnasium was the first theatre on the campus. There was a proscenium stage on the north, and the floor was covered in linoleum. For the 70s, most theatrical productions, like skits and plays, and Mass took place in this assembly space for the SJCHS community, until the decision was made to put in a competition-grade wood floor in the gymnasium, which displaced the theatre. Outside the gym, Sister Elizabeth Marie, C.S.C. led students to trophy status in Speech and Drama competitions with other Utah high schools; she is remembered very fondly for her good work with students.
In 1985, the Browning family and many community supporters built the library addition. Part of this building project was the creation of an outdoor amphitheatre on the north side of the library. It had a small stage, still present, and four banks of turf seats held in place by railroad ties. The school’s first production of Pippin took place here, as well as God’s Favorite, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Godspell. Some of the directors during this time were Mark Hoffman, Tom and Barb Legoski, and Mike Lovett. Weather permitting, this was the venue for Mass. At other times, Mass was in the cafeteria, and that was also where dances were held.
Theatre moved indoors during the 1990s. The cafeteria became the theatre, with the raised portion serving as both stage and back stage. The crew built a stage extension which stretched out to the west wall. The faculty room was the green room, the Advancement office a dressing room. For musicals, the band played on the stage, to the east behind a scrim. Alice in Wonderland, Harvey, Arsenic and Old Lace, Little Women, Nunsense, and Grease were some of the standout performances in this theatre. Directors for these plays were Bryan Jeffreys (SJCHS’91), Reb Gale Fleming, Ralph Coleman, and Michelle Blaney. Living Stations premiered at SJCHS here, directed by Kim Beger. The music program, begun by Barb Legoski, was taken over by Alfonso Tenreiro in 1998. Band and Vocal were taught in the cafeteria two days a week each, before school, so they would not disturb classes.
1999-2000 saw the dream of a real Performing Arts and school assembly space take shape. A capital campaign was begun by Principal David Lang, and carried on by the next principal, Claudia Raab, under the Advancement director, Sherri Hansen (SJCHS ’78). Plans were considered, revised, scaled down, scaled up, in response to the generosity of the many donors to the campaign. Central to the completion of the project was a very generous gift from the ALSAM foundation-on St. Joseph’s Day, 2001- which brought the campaign to its goal and allowed the gifts of the other donors, such as Bob and Mary Evans for the theatre, Mike and Denny Joseph, the Val A. Browning Foundation, the Stewart Education Foundation, and the Samuel C. and Myra Powell Foundation, among many others, to move from hope to concrete. Construction began in summer of 2001, and the building was dedicated in 2003. The school schedule was revised from 7 periods to 8, to allow all grades elective choices so cadres of performing and visual artists could form.
The new Performing Arts facility, dedicated in 2003, brought the Evans Theatre, with its scene shop, costume storage, and green room; a dance studio; music room; and television production studio to the education of the Jayhawks. The total facility also added conference and catering facilities, an upgraded Visual Arts studio, a new Computer Science room, and two new classrooms to the campus.
The Evans theatre provides an appropriate space for school Masses and gatherings, as well as community events; it is now a centerpiece of our school. Central to its purpose is the staging of all performing arts- drama and musical, concerts for band, vocal, and dance, and events such as Living Stations. The Jayhawks present and future look forward to the next memorable event to occur in its great space!
Note: Mr. Allred has been a teacher, principal and actor at Saint Joseph Catholic High School. He currently holds a position on the Saint Joseph Catholic Schools School Board.