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Loretto Academy’s Little Theater Shines Again

Posted on November 1, 2016, by Mary E. (Buffy) Boesen SL

A grand theatre entrance with large wooden doors and blue mosaic detailed with shooting stars and planets.
Stars Shine on Renovated Little Theater — A newly designed entrance welcomes patrons to Loretto Academy’s Little Theater.
Photo courtesy of Alejandra Saldana

Great news for the Loretto Academy! For many years (1976-1999) Frances Ratermann taught music at Loretto Academy. That meant that she also directed the musicals.

When I arrived at Loretto, she was no longer a teacher but had a great love for the school. Every time we went to a play, and she went to all of them, she would find something that needed to be repaired or changed.

Her biggest complaint was there was no dressing room, no place to do makeup and no storage. She thought the lighting was terrible; the sound needed to be improved; the chairs needed refinishing.

After a flood, the ceiling was in disrepair. She was not the only one who complained, but she was very vocal. She wanted me to take the parking spots that the sisters used (attached to the Little Theater) and use them for storage and dressing rooms.

The problem with that was that for some years they had been used by the sisters in the convent. Then, I will admit, I forgot about it because it was going to be very costly.

As years passed, small amounts of money came in for the renovation of the Little Theater. The drama students brought in an historical architect, and the plans included many renovations which amounted to $1.2 million. That number was daunting, and the funds did not come in.

One day I approached a friend of the school and asked for a large gift from her for the Little Theater. She agreed and said it could be used for whatever was needed most.

A back view of an auditorium, with a stage in the distance and rows of wooden chairs.
Before and After — The Little Theater at Loretto Academy, El Paso, has been undergoing renovation. Above top left, is a close-up of one of the theater seats and at top right is a view of the theater before repairs began. Directly above and below, are two interior scenes of the theater after renovation.
A stage view of an auditorium, rows of wooden chairs and a sunlight door down the mail isle.

After the chapel restoration was almost completed, my friend, Ed Soto who managed the chapel, said, “When will we do the Little Theater?”

Well, I was still raising money for the chapel. He added a small $50,000 project of restoring the chapel organ, so I was not a bit enthusiastic. However, he is a persistent kind of fellow, and I agreed we would proceed.

So, for a few months now, the Little Theater has been undergoing this greatly needed renovation. The dressing room was created from the parking spots, including two restrooms; air conditioning has been added (Frances never complained about the lack of AC); chairs are re- upholstered and refinished; floors are redone.

There are new curtains, new lighting, new doors. The ceiling has been repaired and replaced in spots. A sound and lighting booth will be electronic, yet mobile.

Our students cannot wait to get in and start working in the theater. It is important to all of us that our students are able to perform in a theater that matches their efforts on and off stage. And we are only $100,000 short.

As Marie Noël would say, quoting Father Charles Nerinckx, “Never forsake Providence and Providence will never forsake you.”

Frances would be thrilled with the environment our thespians now call home.


Mary E. (Buffy) Boesen SL

Buffy spent many years as both and regular and special education teacher in Colorado, Kentucky and Iowa. After receiving her MSW she was a community organizer with All Families Deserve a Chance (A.F.D.C.) Coalition. She has spent many years as president of Loretto Academy in El Paso. A highlight for her was walking across the United States in 1986 on the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.
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