Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Marjorie Lyons Playhouse

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Institution Name: Centenary College of Louisiana
Original/Historic Place Name: Marjorie Lyons Playhouse
Location on Campus: Wilkinson St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1958original construction Weiner, Samuel
Designer: Samuel Weiner
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: flat, asphalt
 
Function:
1958-present (2006)faculty offices
1958-present (2006)classrooms
1958-present (2006)theater (seating for 350)
ca. 2004-present (2006)academic department building (dance studio)
 

Narrative:
This mid-twentieth century modern structure is home to one of the finest collegiate drama programs in the country. Externally the building is observed as having all horizontal, single story angles and straight lines (in sharp contrast to the rest of the campus) and is a model of theatre construction in terms of seating, acoustics, lighting, and staging. Its repertoire has included plays from every period of dramatic history and by virtually every major author. Its contribution to the community, in addition to Centenary undergraduates, has been enormous. High school students from neighboring states have been bussed in literally by the thousands to see classics by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, Shaw, and O'Neill, as well as contemporary offerings by Miller, Albee, Weiss, Williams, and others. Every year, the playhouse is home to a community youth theatre ("Peter Pan Players"), providing opportunities for aspiring thespians and performers, many of whom have received theatre scholarships from Centenary and various other universities. Beyond its value as a playhouse, Marjorie Lyons is part of the campus academic program. Until its relocation to the new fitness center, the campus dance studio was located in the playhouse, which is also the site for all theatre and speech classes.

Graduates of the program at Marjorie Lyons have gone on to various careers, including professional theatre, and the cultural impact of the productions here on the community has been of the first magnitude. Treatment of provocative subjects has at times stimulated intense community reactions, as witnessed by responses from newspaper editorials in this deep-South society, the John Birch Society's sharp objections to a 1950s presention of Miller's "The Crucible," or local reviewers acclaim for the performances of 1990s productions dealing with gay and lesbian rights and other socially-charged topics.
 

References:

Bryson, Helen R. "A History of Centenary College." M. A. thesis, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, 1941.

Centenary College, The College of Louisiana. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1979.

East Feliciana Parish Records. Clinton and Jackson, LA.

Fay, Edwin W. The History of Education in Louisiana. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1898.

Nelson, William H. A Burning Torch and a Flaming Fire: The Story of Centenary College of Louisiana. Nashville, TN: Methodist Publishing, 1931.

Varnado, Otto W. "A History of the Early Institutions of Higher Learning in Louisiana." M. A. thesis, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, 1927.

 

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Last update: November 2006