On the weekend of November 12-14, Jesuit had our first theatre performances before full audiences since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Along with 6000 theatres in over 40 nations, we celebrated the return of live theatre with a rousing production of "All Together Now," a medley of memorable show tunes.
To mark the occasion, Jesuit's dynamic directing duo of Jeff Hall and Elaine Kloser asked JHS staff members to offer reflections on the role of the Fine Arts at Jesuit High School. Here is mine from the Sunday, November 14 matinee:
"The world is charged with the Grandeur of God!" The great Jesuit poet, Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, captured in lyrical terms the belief of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, that God is in all things.
We just have to look for Him and try to discern what His Spirit is calling us to, and get about that work. At Jesuit High School, nowhere is the attempt to discern and channel that Divine energy more evident than in the fine arts.
From the opening of the first Jesuit school in Messina, Italy 473 years ago, classic works of literature and drama have served as our core curriculum. The Jesuits have educated artists such as the playwright Moliere, James Joyce, and Voltaire. Jesuit schools in Europe were the first to formally teach Drama, visual art, choir and instrumental music, as we still do at Jesuit almost five centuries later.
According to Fr. John O'Malley, SJ, "These works of poetry, drama, oratory, and history were assumed not only to produce eloquence in those studying them, but were also assumed to inspire noble and uplifting ideals. They would, if properly taught, render the student a better human being, imbued with an ideal of service to the common good..." (https://www.scu.edu/ic/programs/ignatian-worldview/stories/how-the-first-jesuits-became-involved-in-education.html).
At Jesuit High School, our fine arts faculty and architect Henry Fitzgibbon '72 designed our gorgeous Performing Arts Center to allow our students' God-given talents to grow and flourish.
Former JHS art teacher Gail Fleenor designed the spacious art classrooms with north-facing windows, to better allow students to capture light and shadow, shade and line. Now, art teachers Sascha Manning and Danielle Chi have taken our art program to a new level, helping students to absorb Gospel values and their role in caring for Creation and the least among us. Sascha and Danielle challenge students to see the world through God's eyes as co-creators, and thus to advance the Jesuit mission.
There is a line in our Mission Statement that sometimes gets overlooked: "Jesuit education fosters the harmonious development of the adolescent's gifts." Three weeks ago, our Bands and Choirs, under the direction of Ken Hoffman and Kristen Caldwell, brought back those soaring harmonies after two years of online concerts and empty auditoriums. It was a powerful and harmonious evening indeed.
Throughout the pandemic, Jeff and Elaine miraculously managed to keep the theatrical arts alive at Jesuit—because they knew that Jesuit schools have offered Theatre for 473 years, through Inquisitions and world wars, pandemics and plague, Depression and Suppression.
We have seen so many productions on the PAC's stages that bring us face-to-face with the Divine. I remember watching alumna Courtney Freed '98, who is performing tonight, in the very first show on this stage. Courtney was the Wicked Witch in The Wiz and in the first shows in the Wiegand Black Box, the spellbinding Once on this Island and Godspell.I also remember learning, as we were swept away by the magnificence of Les Miserables, that "to love another person is to see the face of God."
So, with deep thanks to all of you for being part of our audiences, to our amazing fine arts faculty, and with gratitude especially to our talented, lovable students, let us get back to enjoying live theatre at Jesuit High School—where in the faces of these terrific young people, we see the face of God, and hear His voice.
Let the music play!
Paul J. Hogan