From the very start, the Jesuits here encouraged acting and performing as a way of educating the whole person. The majority of performances put on during these early years—prior to 1924—were talent exhibitions. Often, when a play would go on, it would be more than just a play—there would be musical performances between acts, or the play would be just one brief part of an evening talent show.
Father Timothy Driscoll was the Jesuit who was the architect of the impressive early years of Gonzaga theatre. A series of plays prior to 1913 were directed by Fr. Driscoll to a “near professional” level. In 1913, he left Gonzaga for ten years, during which time the quality of Gonzaga theatre declined rapidly. On Fr. Driscoll’s return for the 1923-1924 school year, he immediately began preparation for “Golgotha.”
“Julius Caesar” and “Henry IV” were the most popular plays performed by the early Zags. Here we have a playbill from the 1900 production of “Henry IV” and a playbill from the 1893 performance of “Julius Caesar.”
Gonzaga collegians often performed for charity, as seen in this newspaper advertisement for “King Robert of Sicily” from 1896.
The program for “An Evening with Coleridge” is from 1897, making it one of the earliest shows that we have record of. This is yet another talent exhibition, containing a poem analysis and a dramatic reading of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
“Asleep at His Post” is a four act play that was presented by the Gonzaga preparatory students in 1899. This is the first Gonzaga play that any photographs remain of.
This program is for an abridged version of Moliere’s play “Bourgeois Gentilhomme” The abridgement is called “The Upstart” and was performed in 1900.
This program is for a talent exhibition that was held in honor of Dr. Douglas Hyde. In this exhibition there were several speeches and songs, which were run by the same department that handled theatre at this time.
This scrapbook was used by the St. Cecilia Society for playbills and newspaper clippings from 1890-1904. It is open to the programs for a military operetta from 1902 and the farce “Haunted House” which was presented as part of a group of short plays during a talent exhibition. These programs show the variety in early theatre here at Gonzaga.
In the early years of GU theatre, it was common for plays and talent exhibitions to occur on holidays, like this one in 1902.
This program for the 1904 production of “Pizarro” is filled with advertisements to help offset the cost of Father Driscoll’s ambitious props, sets, and costumes. Most of the programs from this time period contain advertisements like this.
Above is a poster advertising for the 1906 commencement exhibition, which included a play called “The Critic.”
“Vincentius,” like “Golgotha” is a passion play. Put on in 1912, it was not as ambitious as “Golgotha,” which was a true spectacle. Below is a picture of Syrus’ Employees, from left to right: Leonard F. Hayes as Vitalanus, William J. Condon as Sextus, Stanley C. Moore as Saturinus, and Cyril J. Fairhurst as Cinna.
Harry L. "Bing" Crosby Jr. was an active participant in Gonzaga theatre while he attended GU. He is pictured here with Mike Pecarovich (Judas, "Golgotha") in this advertisement in the Spokane Daily Chronicle for the 1923 comedy "It Pays to Advertise."