The Pageant of Youth

In 1925, the Jesuits looked to another venue to help repay their debt: The Pageant of Youth — a lavish play involving 1,000 students from SI and other San Francisco Catholic schools, all under the direction of Fr. T.J. Flaherty, SJ, and written by Fr. Daniel Lord, SJ, a talented young Jesuit of the Missouri Province. Among the stars of Pageant of Youth was J. Preston Devine ’21, the uncle of former SI drama director and current English teacher Peter Devine ’66. Preston played the choicest role in the Pageant, that of the devil.

The Red and Blue of February 25, 1925, reported that “when the call for the students was sent out [to audition for the Pageant], the auditorium was filled with the volunteers, forcing the directors to limit the already great number and reserve many for future use.”

According to the 1925 Ignatian, the Pageant of Youth, which had five showings, was “a musical masque, heralded as the greatest religious, educational and dramatic production ever presented in San Francisco…. To accommodate the enormous number of participants, a special stage, 120 feet wide with a depth of 50 feet, the largest ever built in the Civic Auditorium, was constructed. To give a stage opening sufficient to frame the dancing groups and comprehend the magnitude of the lavish scenes and lighting effects, the arch was made 70 feet wide and 30 feet high. The rearranged Auditorium had a seating capacity of 6,000 with a perfect view of the stage for all.”

In 1927, SI formed the Senior Dramatic Society and presented George Cohan’sSeven Keys to Baldpate under the direction of Mr. Bart O’Neill, SJ, and Mr. Thomas Foster, with two performances at the Knights of Columbus Hall. A gushing reporter for the Ignatian had this to say about the performances of James Ludlow, Garret McEnerney, Frank Silva and Ralph Campiglia: “The players set a precedent which will demand every art from future aspirants to dramatic honors. It is doubtful if the performance will ever be surpassed at St. Ignatius.”

Two years later, Mr. Thomas Foster directed Right on the Button with a cast, for the first time, that went beyond seniors. Four juniors joined the typically all-senior cast and “a freshman [John McHugh] was chosen to play a juvenile role for which none suitable could be found in the upper division.”6