In 1981, Bonnie Spark was hired by Fr. Terry Young to teach English and communications. She was also to develop a Performing Arts program. Thus, the Pius Players Drama Program was born. The first performance was a fall arts variety show in November of 1981 and was held in the cafeteria. The show featured drama scenes, dance, and poetry readings. The small group of 18 students were an instant hit, representing their craft with the recognizable comedy and tragedy t-shirts. Parents, students, and administrators were thrilled, and our arts community had finally arrived.
The first few shows were so successful that Bishop Donnellan said, “We need a real theatre.” In May of 1986, the Young Center presented the great Rodgers and Hammerstein shit show, Oklahoma! With a cast of 80, choreography by Lynn Fleetwood Dukes (creator of the inaugural dance program at St. Pius), and musical director Jay Hinson, the 6 shows were sellouts!
In the 90s, the drama department grew from a club to a co-curricular program. The Pius Players would tour and perform at partner schools in hopes of inspiring young talent. In the 2000s, musicals such as Into the Woods, West Side Story, Les Mis, Guys and Dolls, Grease, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, Camelot, and Fiddler on the Roof were always inspiring. In recent years, spring musicals including Godspeed, Beauty and the Beast, Hot Mikado, She Loves Me, and the smash hit Newsies, have been standing room only. Fall plays included The Tempest, Arsenic and Old Lace, Midsummer Nights Dream, Murder by Indecision, The Butler Did It Again, Antigone, and most recently Clue: The Stage Play, were a laugh a minute.
Alumni and their children have performed in many shows and still do to this day. What a legacy! During the last 39 years, six different drama courses have been offered and 60% of the St. Pius student body participate in the arts. The St. Pius Arts society was formed to raise funds and awareness for each discipline within the fine arts department. This allows for our students to enriching trips and visit with professional artists. We are also proud of the establishment of the Bonnie Spark Endowment Fund for future theater needs.
Through the years, unconditional love and support from alumni, parents, friends, students, faculty, staff and administrators have been a blessing. Monsignor Young’s vision for a fine arts department has become a reality. To quote Voltaire’s Candide, “Make our garden grow.”