november 12, 2003

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Alumni and friends of the college gathered early Sunday morning for a ceremony to dedicate the restored USAO Greek Theater at the southeast corner of campus. Inspired by the original OCW Greek Theater, which came down in the 1950s, this new facility will provide an elegant backdrop for various outdoor activities on campus. From left, on the front row, are EDC/Chamber President Marilyn Feaver and USAO President John Feaver, Alumni Hall of Famer Mo Anderson of Edmond, and Emcee Lynda Holding of Carnegie.

Alums gather to dedicate restored Greek theater

Built originally by the Class of 1923, then lost in the 1950s, and now fully restored by generous donors, a Greek Theater has become the latest restoration project completed on the campus of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

Alumni from across America participated in its outdoor rededication ceremony Oct. 26, at the close of the 2003 Alumni Homecoming weekend. Then on Oct. 27, its first, official public event took place: a student wedding that "perfectly symbolizes its harmonizing purpose in the college community," said USAO President John Feaver.

"The Greek Theater serves as a symbol of the creative spirit and vision of the Oklahoma College for Women," Feaver said Sunday. "Today we rededicate a poetic and classic edifice. We salute the accomplished men and women who have graduated from this institution and become caring and responsible citizens. May this structure forever remind us to love beauty and celebrate our friendships."

For the dedication, early Sunday morning, the air was crisp and filled with music "performed" by the 1948 Glee Club and Orchestra, including numbers like, "Tuxedo Junction," and "You've Changed." They "performed" via 78-rpm records provided by the College Archives.

Serving as emcee was retired educator Lynda Holding of Carnegie, who graduated from the Oklahoma College for Women in 1965.

"Three thousand years ago the Greeks read their epic poems, political speeches and plays on stages such as this," Holding said. "In the 1920s, this stage provided the backdrop for Greek tragedies directed by our own Francis Davis. And now, today, it will provide a new venue for creative expression by new generations. Shakespeare said, 'See first that the design is wise and just. Ascertaining this, pursue it resolutely.' … And that is what we've done."

According to research by Dr. Dan Hobbs, director of the USAO Legacy Project, the original OCW Greek Theater was a favorite venue on which the visionary theatrical director Frances Dinsmore Davis staged Greek and Roman tragedies from 1923 until the mid 1950s, "featuring young women performing natural dances in the style of Isadora Duncan, clad in diaphanous white gowns."

Its rebirth in 2003 began when the college was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Feaver began assembling the essential resources for a long-term, full restoration of the historic campus, including the reconstruction of lost elements like the Greek Theater.

The reborn Greek Theater began to leap from the page after the Craig Foundation of Chickasha provided substantial leadership funding. Real estate executive Mo Anderson of Edmond, a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame, provided significant additional support. The $60,000 project was managed by the USAO Foundation.

The new Greek Theater stands 13 feet tall, 36 feet wide, and contains four tons of steel and 70 tons of concrete. Design and construction was done by CMS-Willowbrook of Chickasha. Architectural and theatrical lighting, done by ETI Technologies, will complete the project later this year.

Like the original, the new Greek Theater faces the evening sun and rises majestically from a natural sanctuary of trees. Finding the precise, original location on which to build it was a challenge, reported Alan Proctor, executive director of the USAO Foundation.

"Not all memories of its use more than 60 years ago were in agreement as to its exact first location," Proctor explained. "President Feaver commissioned a study in 2002 that resulted in aerial photographs captured to match a 1939 image showing its placement on the landscape." Modern digital photography was used to compare the images, and pinpoint the original spot, where its surrounding, natural amphitheater became obvious.

Contact: Randy Talley, 1-405-574-1337