Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 2004
Curtains open at St. Joe's stage
Knights of Columbus promise $500,000 to school project
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The curtains are now up on a state-of-the-art live entertainment facility at St. Joseph High School thanks in large part to a donation from the Knights of Columbus.
The renovation project, converting an old gymnasium into a 212-seat theatre and stage, was fading to black as provincial government funding began to run out.
The government agreed to fund half of the original $1-million estimate, claiming it considered the theatre was not directly educational space, says Gary Rehman, fine art and religion department head at St. Joe's.
"We still need to outfit the theatre with more lights, but it is open for public use," Rehman said. "It is a performing arts space, but we also want to have large group lectures and a large group setting for guest speakers."
Five years ago
About five years ago, the initial retrofit was completed. Concrete was poured to create the basic theatre-round seating area, resembling more of a lecture hall than a theatre.
Fundraising efforts, including getting people to buy seats, did not catch on, Rehman says. That is when the idea of contacting the Knights was put forward.
"We asked them if they could help out," Rehman said. "It took a little while to organize everything but the Knights decided to take it on as a millennium project. They made an agreement with Edmonton Catholic Schools' board of trustees telling them what the Knights' commitment would be," he said.
"It was enough to complete the project. Initially, I was worried about the size of it because ideally, I would love a bigger stage. But it really is an impressive space. It forces us to be creative and there is nothing wrong with that.
"We can't have a 60-piece band on the stage, but for our purposes, it is more than adequate."
Rehman is grateful for what the Knights did. If it were not for their donation, drama students would still be rehearsing and performing in the school's basement.
"To me, it was a God-send. It was the Holy Spirit saying this is how it will be. The gift the Knights have given the school and this district, is something I'm not sure we can ever repay. And I like the fact they appreciate the artistic side of students."
Rehman says the students were bowled over when they first saw the completed theatre. Their anticipation was running rampant because of a series of delays. The seats were made in Korea and took a long time to arrive. Then there was a train strike in Vancouver.
"When they walked in they couldn't believe it. They were used to having only cement platforms for seats and there was no lighting. It was dark and dingy. It was a gift they had been hearing about and performing for the first time was very special for them," he said.
Lots of reasons
Knights of Columbus State Deputy Mickey Casavant says there were several reasons the K of C wanted to help finance the completion of the facility, now known as the St. Joseph High School Knights of Columbus Theatre.
"St. Joe's is the oldest Catholic high school in Edmonton. And St. Joe's continues to use the approach that it has an open door policy towards our youth," Casavant said. "It accepts students from various cultural backgrounds. There is no discrimination of any kind, which is very much in line with the philosophy of the Knights."
The Knights were looking for a millennium project to recognize their founder, Father Michael McGivney, and to recognize the youth who are an important part of their family component, Casavant said.
"We signed the agreement to commit $500,000 over five years. The money will come from general fundraising revenues. We wanted a project that would involve a lot of the knights and a project that would benefit the community and youth for many years. This is an opportunity for our youth to express themselves through the theatre.
"I think people underestimate how meaningful that is," he said.