History

The Moreau Center for the Arts at Saint Mary's College celebrates its 50th anniversary during the 2006-2007 season. Named in honor of the Very Reverend Basil Anthony Moreau, C.S.C., the founder of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the facility consists of O'Laughlin Auditorium, Little Theatre, Moreau Art Galleries, studios, workshops and classrooms.

When completed in the fall of 1956, it fulfilled the dream of establishing an arts center for students, faculty, staff, and members of the South Bend community. Sister Frances Jerome, formerly Susan O'Laughlin, chair of Classical Languages and vice president of Saint Mary's College, bequeathed her inheritance as the first significant gift to begin construction on the building.

When the cornerstone for the Moreau Center was being laid, Helen Hayes spoke at the ceremony. Ms. Hayes was also commemorating her 50th year as a professional actress. At this event, Ms. Hayes read Portia's "quality of mercy" speech from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare from the unfinished stage. She said, "There is no beauty that can be laid upon this brick and mortar as perfect as the love and high ideals that have gone into its construction. Since these are the first words that an actress has delivered from this stage, I hope they may find their way into some of the cornices and rest there."

The realization of the Moreau Center was due in large part to the work and dedication of Sister Madeleva Wolff, CSC, who was president of Saint Mary's from 1934 to 1961. Modeled after the renowned Wagnerian Opera House in Bayreuth, Germany, the O'Laughlin Auditorium held its grand opening on October 11, 1956, featuring the NBC Opera Company's production of The Marriage of Figaro. At the time, the construction project cost $2.5 million.

Sister Madeleva believed that learning was best facilitated in beautiful surroundings. This was certainly exhibited by her attention to the physical landscape of the College and, perhaps most notably, in construction of the Moreau Center.

Beauty is one of the three attributes under which we can know and see God most clearly. We think of God in terms of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. It is not easy for us to arrive at Truth. We are so filled with fallibility and crowded with prejudices. We have such incomplete knowledge that we are limited in our grasp of Truth. The Good is not always easy for us to accept. Often things that are not so good glow with such attraction. We have a knack for resisting goodness. But Beauty is one aspect of God that is irresistible. Beauty is God's visibility. We can 'see' it in a way we cannot see Truth and Goodness. That is why beauty is so important. -Sister Madeleva

O'Laughlin Auditorium, which offers continental seating up to 1300 is ideal for large musical and theatrical productions, while the Little Theatre, with seating for approximately 300, is well suited to student concerts, panels and workshop productions.