After years of staging productions elsewhere, this May the Pius XI High School performing arts community will finally have its own home in the form of the Father Robert V. Carney Performing Arts Center and Wendy Lindsey Theater.
Below: Construction work is underway on the new theater complex at Pius XI and work is scheduled to be completed in May. The new entrance into the theater and art gallery is pictured above. (Submitted photo by Peter Reeves, editor of the school’s newspaper)
“What this will really be is the home we need, the home we’ve never had,” said Bonnie Scholz, chairperson of the Performing Arts Department at Pius.
The performance space is a $3 million project that has been a 10-year effort on the part of Pius administrators and alumni. Construction began in August and is on schedule for completion this May. The center will feature a 500-seat theater and a 7,600-square-foot “pre-function” multipurpose area with two art galleries and a reception space. The complex will be constructed in the footprint of the high school’s Old Gym.
The project has been financed almost exclusively by private donations from alumni and parents. The students will begin performing there in the 2012-1013 school year. The high school had previously performed offsite, taking its productions to the Pabst Theater and other locations.
Pius XI has a distinguished history of promotion of the arts, according to Scholz.
“It’s always been part of the core curriculum here,” she said. “Arts are not thought of as less than academic. A strong art education means a strong academic education.”
J.J. Anshus, 2008 alumnus, said the new addition shows strength during hard financial times.
“It is a testimony to how strongly our community is dedicated to arts, building this addition to the school in an economically challenging time,” he said.
A student at Pius XI has the opportunity to be involved in 149 performances a year, said Scholz, including opportunities to participate in liturgical performances, pep band shows, rallies, Comedy Sportz, musicals and plays. The school has a thriving technical theater program, which Pius theater director Kevin Schwartz said will only improve with the advent of the Carney Center.
“The students worked with true professionals at the Pabst Theatre, which was good, but now they can have a hands-on experience,” he said.
Schwartz added that the student body of Pius XI has been waiting for this new center for years. “It’s a hope that’s been passed down from one class to the other,” he said. “Every class hoped they would be able to perform in the new center.”
“I am so excited for the community, but more importantly for the students that will be able to enjoy the benefits of something that was only talk and words in my high school time,” he said.