History of The Blackfriars Guild

On Tuesday, November 19, 1963, the first meeting of the Blackfriars Guild was held in the cafeteria. Father J.D. Reynolds, O.P. began the organization with a small group made up of John Ganter, Hugh Kohler, Bill Tomlin, Rick Boeglin, Frank Shemek, Larry Bires, and Bob Ruble.

The first production took place in the spring of 1964, Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology. It was performed as a dramatic reading, with a simple set, cafeteria tables for headstones and a scrim with the silhouette of a willow tree serving as the setting. The student body, consisting solely of freshmen and sophomores, served as the first public audience for the performance, and the Blackfriars Guild was on its way.

The following  December the first musical, Paint Your Wagon, was presented, under the direction of Fr. Reynolds. Audience response was enthusiastic. Fr. Delich, newly assigned to BL was the musical director, and Fr. D.A. Shanahan assisted. Already the spirit of cooperation and enthusiastic participation - always a feature of any Blackfriars production - was in evidence.

In January 1965 Fr. Reynolds was reassigned and Fr. Shanahan became the moderator of the Blackfriars. His first production was Little Mary Sunshine, with Fr. Meis helping out with the chorus.

For the next eleven years, Fr. Shanahan led the Blackfriars through a series of outstanding musical productions - two each year. From Gilbert & Sullivan shows like H.M.S. Pinafore to Rodgers & Hammerstein offerings such as The Sound of Music, the Blackfriars Guild continued to offer the best in musical theatre.

In 1976 the directing reigns were handed over to Brother Roger Shondel, who produced Hello Dolly in the fall of that year. Following in the tradition that had been established, the Blackfriars continued to produce two musicals each year until the 1979-1980 school year. From then on the Guild concentrated its efforts on a spring musical production. Brother Roger introduced the more modern musical to the Blackfriars, thus keeping up with changing times. From Hello Dolly to Fiddler on the Roof to The Music Man, the Guild grew and expanded its repertoire and kept the audiences coming back for more.

 With the departure of Brother Roger in 1982, Maria Longoria Farrell '76 took charge for the 1983 production of Camelot. Assisting her was Joe Heffernan, who then went on to direct the next seven shows.

By this time, the Blackfriars were producing more realistic, modern shows. Recognizing that audiences had gotten more worldly, Heffernan introduced such shows as West Side Story and Sweet Charity.

 Assisting Joe throughout the mid-1980s was Kit Hoolan Sawyer '77, who had returned to BL to teach speech. In 1991, at the departure of Heffernan, Kit became the sole director of the Blackfriars Spring Musical. Since then, she has introduced audiences to a variety of styles - from the modern standards like Grease and Annie, to the lesser known among high school productions, like Damn Yankees and Li'l Abner.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Bishop Lynch began to experience a dramatic increase in the student population. As the numbers of students in the school grew, so did the numbers of students interested in theater. A fall production was added to the schedule, providing those students who were more interested in non-musicals a performance venue. By the late 1990s, the Blackfriars Guild was producing musicals with larger casts, and stage shows with more drama and intrigue.

In 1995, John Athas came on board as the Drama teacher. With an eye towards developing student actors while presenting literarily important, as well as entertaining plays, the fall play quickly became a well attended and highly anticipated event.

In 1998 the Blackfriars produced their first off-campus show, Guys and Dolls, with a cast of nearly 100. For the next five years the group would travel to venues north of LBJ in order to continue providing the outstanding entertainment for which they had become known.

Finally in the spring of 2003 the Blackfriars Guild triumphantly returned to Bishop Lynch to perform in the new McGonigle Theatre. Audiences were thrilled to see the outstanding production of My Favorite Year. Bishop Lynch was the first high school in the southwest to perform this musical. The following fall, the BlackBox Theatre opened with its first production - Blood Wedding.

With the addition of the Performing Arts Center, a new day dawned for the Theatre curriculum at BL. With the new state-of-the-art Black Box Theatre as a venue for the smaller productions and theatre workshops and classes, a spring play was added. Since then, everything from Agatha Christie murder mysteries, to the Tennessee Williams tragedies and George Bernard Shaw comedies have been performed for the Bishop Lynch community.

Now in its 50th year, The Blackfriars are working on their second Alumni Revue - the first was in celebration of their 40th year. This somewhat ambitious undertaking will take place on October 26-27, with nearly 50 alumni returning to Bishop Lynch to reprise their roles from various musicals throughout the Blackfriars fifty year history.

Now Bishop Lynch High School boasts the strongest and best Theatre and Musical experience and curriculum to be found in private and Catholic education in the State of Texas.

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