Gift provides new seating in Anderson Theatre Posted on September 2nd, 2020 by

The Evelyn Anderson Theatre got a major upgrade this summer: brand new seats. A $20,000 gift from Marion Myrland Johnson x’51 and John Johnson made the purchase possible.

The previous seats were the originals installed when the theatre was built in the 1970’s nearly a half century ago. Now thanks to the Johnsons, along with Hope Pluto Annexstad ’59 and Glenn Annexstad, the entire center section of the Anderson Theatre is much more comfortable.

While Marion ended up graduating from the University of Minnesota, Gustavus holds a special place in her heart. Her daughter also attended Gustavus and her granddaughter Jordan Johnson ’21 is currently a theatre major. Marion was classmates with Edna Spaeth Granlund ’51 and Paul Granlund ’52 and treasures two pieces of Paul’s art in her home today. She still remembers Evelyn “Ma” Young ’33 and thinks of her each time she sets a table.

Marion was not a theatre student, but she says theatre professor and namesake Evelyn Anderson ’29 used to drive to the cities most weekends and invited Marion to ride along stopping for burgers on the way. “We had instructors that gave their all to the school and their lives to their students. I think it was rare at that time,” she says.

So, when Marion was approached with the idea of replacing the worn out seats by Director of Gift Planning Jim Rothschiller and Associate Professor of Theatre Henry MacCarthy, she thought, “Why not have some really comfortable seats to sit in on the theatre for the productions?” 

MacCarthy says the upgrade has opened doors to more repertoire than they have considered in the past due to the comfort of the audience. Because of the round nature of the theatre, there have always been four different sizes of seats in the theatre. The size of the seats has been a problem in the past, but now the smallest sized new seats are the same size as the largest old seats. MacCarthy thinks this will be a game changer. “We’ve had an issue doing shows like Shakespeare or Molière, classic plays that are fairly lengthy,” he says. “Part of the concern is that we can’t make people sit down for two and a half hours in uncomfortable seating. So this is the main thing for me.”

The next step is to find donors to help replace the seats in the other sections of the theatre as well as the carpet and hand railings down the steep steps into the theatre. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Special Gift Officer Coordinator for Reunion Giving Karla Leitzman ’13 or visit the Department of Theatre and Dance giving website.


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