Performing Arts Theme House tradition continues into 23rd year


Left to right: Maslin Boten; Zoe Murphy; Jack Strub; Cierra Clark; Dallas Williams; Jared Campbell. Photo submitted by Jack Strub

by Blake Carlson, Contributor

Remember the house the Brady Bunch grew up in? Keep that image in your head, and fast-forward about four decades.

Now, forget the six Brady kids and replace them with six Simpson College students who are also really good actors.

And with that you have the story of the Performing Arts Theme House.

At 903 North E. St. is a 1975 split-level home housing a group of fine arts majors who are embarking on another year of a Simpson tradition started in 1995.

The Performing Arts Theme House, known on campus as the PA House, is the longest-running theme house in Simpson history.

Over the past 23 years, groups of students have moved in and out of this residence, creating a welcoming environment for students of all majors to gather.

But it was not until a recent post on Facebook that this year’s PA House residents got a bit of a glimpse into the past of this storied institution.

Cierra Clark, a senior elementary education major with a theatre minor, serves as the house manager. When Simpson College Theatre Arts shared a photo and asked PA House residents of years past to comment, more than two decades of memories came alive online.

“We often do not think about the PA House 23 years ago,” Clark said. “We really just see it in the present as a place to live and put on cool events.”

One of the first comments was from a founding member of the house, who also co-founded the Underground, a monthly charitable open-mic style event hosted by the PA House in the Blank Performing Arts Center.

“Proud alum and resident of the very first PA and Underground here. So happy to see that the vision continues! Have a great year,” Ryan Morrison said.

Morrison was among nearly a dozen people to share memories of living in the PA House.

“Any bats in those walls?” Mandy Oglesby said.

Oglesby is another alum sharing something all house residents know all too well: bats.

A small opening in the living room fireplace allows bats to sneak into the home, which often ends in a call to security to safely bring the creatures back outside.

“We have yet to experience the whole bat escapade. The fireplace is duct taped off, so they do not have a way to get in right now,” Clark said.

Yes, duct tape. While this house has become an institution on campus for being a place to gather and express creativity, it has also fallen into a certain state of disrepair.

Maslin Boten is a sophomore theatre major with an arts management minor. She is another of the six current residents who is discovering ways to decorate the house creatively to cover up some of the “unique character” it has been given over the past 23 years, one of them being the fireplace.

“It is an Icelandic sheep pelt that our housemate Jack’s mother bought him for Christmas, so we put it over the fireplace,” Boten said.

But what stands out more than the bats or everything else about this creaky old house is a Simpson event continuing to stand the tests of time: the Underground.

This event happens around the second Friday of every month and serves as a fundraiser where audience members donate loose change to RunDSM, a youth organization in Des Moines to watch the cabaret style event.

The first Underground event of the school year was held Sept. 7 and saw record-breaking attendance.

“We had about 130 people there, and that is the largest Underground I have ever seen on campus,” Clark said. “We ended up hosting it in Pote Theater by accident, but thank goodness we did.”

After 23 years on campus, the event has become sort of a commonplace for not only fine arts majors but also students from other areas of the college.

And all it took was a simple Facebook post to remind the PA House just where they came from and how many years of tradition they continue to represent.

“It was really cool to hear from them. Without technology, we would have never had that experience,” Boten said.

In a period of transition and seemingly constant change for Simpson, the PA House and its residents continue to stand the tests of time.

Just like those kids from the Brady Bunch.