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Fr Irwin Returns

Fr. Irwin Returns

In 1933 Fr. Henry Lee Irwin, S.J., the young scholastic who had risen to prominence with his direction of Julius Caesar in 1922 and Damon and Pythias in 1923 before being sent back to the Vnited States for further studies was recalled to serve as Headmaster of the Ateneo Grade School. The newly ordained priest lost no time, to produce King Lear, Joan of Arc and Officer 666 in three consecutive years.
In 1936 he presented a thrillet the Blue Ghost in the Ateneo auditorium, the finest auditorium in the orient at that time. It was his first and last play in that theatre which he helped to design for he was called away by his superiors to help the announcements connected with the XXXIII International Eucharistic Congress in Manila.

The year before his departure he undertook an experiment; as a segment of the Commencement Exercises on March .21, 1935 he had the Grade School boys put on the last act of Joan of Arc to make a comparison between the child actors and their older brothers.

The Children's Opere1tas

Not to be outdone by the College and High School, the Grade School presented short plays, many of them with a religious theme. The magnificent auditorium and the incandescent performances under Fr. Irwin s hand stirred the mentors into ambitious activities.
In 1939 they staged Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan and in 1940 the Windmills of Holland.
Pinafore was Ateneo's second foray into operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan. The first was Mikado which was premiered in the Philippines in 1926 with the consummate musician Jose Mossessgeld Santiago, the Ateneo alumnus who became the first Filipino to sing in La Scala de Milan, directing the Ateneo orchestra, the Ateneo Boys' Choir and the Ateneo Glee Club.
There were two performances of Pinafore. In the first showing only the first act was presented, doubled with a full-length Tarcisius, a children's play on the occasion of the Holy Guardian Angels, the Grade School's patronal feast.
The second performance was a full-dress production with an orchestra, in the new auditorium.
Both Pinafore and Tarcisius were directed by two grade school teachers, Juan Javier and Fernando Tiongco who also directed Windmills of Holland in 1940. They were assisted by Fr. Uno Banayad, S.J.

Creating Great Things on Ashes and Debris

When the Battle of Manila ended in 1945 nothing was left but ghostly ruins in Padre Faura where the Ateneo once proudly stood. But the Jesuits were as un fazed as they were during the fire in Intramuros just a decade before that. After they had arranged for the Fourth Year classes to be held in Cjuipit in a place borrowed from the Hijas deJesus for a year, they built eight quonset huts on the scene of destruction.

On his return Fr. Irwin staged Hamlet on the ugly remains of past grandeur. He directed four other Shakespearian works-Macbeth, Othello, Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar as well as Sheridan's The Rivals. Indefatigabl~ he initiated the Dramatic Evenings in the gymnasium where all the plays were produced by the students themselves with him exercising merely a general supervision.

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