As we prepare to open our 46th season this Sunday, I’m packing up my office. With the Capitol Steps on their way in this Sunday, I’m on my way out this Tuesday. I’m looking forward to the move.
Forty-six years ago, the University never anticipated that we’d have as many people working for Popejoy Hall as we do. They had three spacious offices, when you include the box office. We long ago outgrew our space and now Marketing and Education staff members are moving to new offices on the other side of campus.
When I joined the Popejoy staff in 1996, we were moving back to the hall after a major renovation. To accommodate the size of the staff then, the architects eliminated the hallway that used to run from the lobby to the green room on the left side of the hall. We shoehorned our staff into that space and it worked — for a couple of years.
Then we started converting closets, storage rooms and coat rooms to office space. I’ve been in a closet under the stairs for seven years, what I refer to as my Harry Potter office.
In sifting through the material in my office, deciding whether to pack it or trash it, I came across some old photos, like the one above, and a photocopy of a typewritten annual report from Popejoy’s first season. According to the document, the original staff included a director, a secretary, a technical director, an audio engineer, a cashier and six to seven students working as stage crew.
That first season, Popejoy itself presented just five performances, four in October of 1966. Compare that to the record-breaking run of Disney’s The Lion King which just completed 33 performances this October. In all of its first season of operation, Popejoy saw 103,000 people attend 88 different shows in the hall. The Lion King brought in over 60,000 just last month. That’s more people attending one show than ever before in Popejoy Hall.
Yes, we’ve grown.
We're not done growing, either. We’ve just begun to look ahead to 2016, which will be our 50th season. Some of the things we know: we have to expand our stage; we have to improve our dressing rooms, since we’ve had little done to them since we opened in 1966; we have to create a bigger donor lounge; we have to find a way to add enough offices to allow all our staff to be be housed together again.
It’s hard for a theater to grow physically. That requires teams of architects, engineers, carpenters, electricians, steelworkers, painters and more. It also requires a lot of people helping with the funding for that expansion. But that’s likely in the cards for Popejoy.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep packing boxes, looking forward to the day next week when I can work in a space with windows.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: Gene Ives (second from right) and three others sing in the lobby of Popejoy Hall for some celebration (ten-year anniversary?). Perhaps someone can identify the other three singers and the occasion.