Gustavus Celebrates Opening of Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre Posted on February 28th, 2020 by

Cheryl Downey ’66 addresses the audience at the alumni panel as part of the dedication of the new Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre. Downey is the winner of the Directors Guild’s highest honor given to an assistant director or production manager, The Frank Capra Award for "Distinctive Career Achievement and Service to the Guild."

It was a who’s who of notable Gustavus Adolphus College Department of Theatre and Dance alumni Saturday evening as nearly 150 supporters and friends gathered to celebrate the opening ceremony of the new Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre.

The evening kicked off with a panel featuring eight theatre and dance alumni from across the decades. Recent alum Christian DeMarais ’11 talked about successes, failures, and the importance of community which was instilled during his time in theatre at Gustavus. “You can’t get through this without people around you, both on stage and off stage,” he said. “No person is an island.” DeMarais has used that community to support him through his MFA at NYU which led him to roles at the New York Shakespeare Festival and in the Netflix series Maniac with Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, and Gabriel Byrne. “Celebrate the wins,” he said. “They may not come everyday, but when they do, they’re worth it.”

Rob Gardner addresses the audience at the dedication of the Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre.

Dance and communications major Britta Joy Peterson ’08 became the Director of Dance at American University in Washington, D.C. and has choreographed work at the Kennedy Center. She cited the support of faculty members Michele Rusinko and Melissa Rolnick that guided her career even after leaving Gustavus. “I invested in my body, I invested in my mentors, and I invested in my craft,” she said. “I really worked for things that I wanted and I learned that here at Gustavus. Talent will get you a ways, but being a good person will take you so much farther.”

Following the panel, a formal ceremony unveiled the name of the theatre. President Bergman recognized the support of Linda Gulder Huett ’66 whose generosity was instrumental to ensuring that the new theatre was completed as a part of the expansion and renovation of Nobel Hall of Science and Anderson Theatre.

Namesake Rob Gardner also spoke. Many of the alumni in the room had taken classes with Gardner over his decades at the College. During his speech, Gardner spoke warmly about his time at Gustavus and acknowledged the large role his wife Judy played, rising at 4 a.m. for work, but still being present for every one of Rob’s evening productions. 

Peter Breitmayer ’87 says he attended the event to honor Gardner who gave him a sense of stability during a challenging time in his life. “He was a professor, but he was also like a father,” he said.  Breitmayer has been featured in television shows such as Fargo, The Middle, and How I Met Your Mother as well as movies including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man

The final piece of the evening was a special showing of You’re Invited! A New Creation by the Moving Company in the newly christened Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre. The production was devised by a team of student actors and professional theatre group, The Moving Company, led by Steve Epp ’80. The collaboration was a celebration of the new state-of-the-art black box theatre which greatly expands the opportunities for theatre, dance, and technical theatre classes at the College.



  1. Judy Gardner says:

    We were so excited to share this wonderful evening with Linda Huett, nine of our children and grandchildren, special longtime friends of ours from Rochester, MN, and all the Gustavus Alumni, faculty and administrators who made it all possible. It was a breathtaking celebration.

    Rob and I met in the Anderson Theatre and theatre has played a significant role in our lives. We were so excited to reconnect with so many Alumni with whom we shared those golden days and performances.

    Looking forward to many performances in the Laboratory Theatre, beautifully christened by The Moving Company.

    With great respect and gratitude,
    Judy Gardner

  2. Don Palmgren says: