SSU names VRCFA theater for Eloise Covert Smith

By Wayne Allen

November 24, 2013

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

Since the Vern Riffe Center For the Arts was constructed in 1995 on the campus of Shawnee State University, the center has hosted countless number of shows and concerts — but the main theater of the center has remained nameless. On Nov. 13, it was designated as the Eloise Covert Smith Theater before the Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association performance of “Mamma Mia!”

According to Shawnee State University, “Eloise Covert Smith was a graduate of Portsmouth High School and dedicated much of her life to education. She taught elementary school in New Boston and Wheelersburg. After retirement, she remained an advocate of higher education and was a supporter of Shawnee State University, making a significant estate gift in 1995 to the SSU Development Foundation’s Reach for the Stars campaign.”

The Vern Riffe Center For the Arts was opened in 1996 with the Julliard String Quartet performed during grand open festivities. The celebration continued through May 2nd including performances by Doc Severinson and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. The main theater of the Vern Riffe Center For the Arts — now the Eloise Covert Smith Theater — was designed by George Izenour.

“Eloise, a teacher, and her husband, Sam Kenyon, an engineer and contractor, owned lands from the ridge to the river and from the gas lines to the Wheelersburg exit,” said Tom Covert, nephew of the late Eloise Covert Smith. “It was from this background and from these lands in which this gift is rooted. I know Eloise and Sam are pleased to see that a portion of their fruits remained here for education.”

Upcoming shows for the Eloise Covert Smith Theater include the annual holiday concert from the Oak Ridge Boys on Mon. Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

On Dec. 1 the Portsmouth Wind Symphony will hold a holiday concert starting at 3 p.m.

Also performing will be “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 3. According to sopaa.org, “We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. But did you know that Dickens’ story is credited with helping to popularize all the Christmas traditions we take for granted? Christmas trees, cards, carol singing — even giving employees off for Christmas were not common practices at the time the story was written.

Woven with beautiful renditions of holiday songs such as ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and ‘Greensleeves’ this sumptuous production will remind us why we never get tired of watching the Dickens’ story about the importance of charity and love.”

“Rock of Ages” will be performing in the theater on Feb. 5. According to its website, rockofagesmusical.com, “set in LA’s infamous Sunset Strip in 1987, Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, both in LA to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love. Rock of Ages takes you back to the times of big bands with big egos playing big guitar solos and sporting even bigger hair.”

Also performing is, “The Miracle Worker” on March 25 and then classical musician Jenny Lin on April 9. According to www.jennylin.net, “Jenny Lin is one of the most respected young pianists today, admired for her adventurous programming and charismatic stage presence. Her ability to combine classical and contemporary literature has brought her to the attention of international critics and audiences. She has been acclaimed for her ‘remarkable technical command’ and ‘a gift for melodic flow’ by The New York Times.”

To wrap up the season, “West Side Story” will be coming to the theater on April 21. According to its website, www.westsidestory.com, “It is widely known that West Side Story (WSS) is based directly on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Far less well known is the fact that Shakespeare based his play (1594) on other material, particularly a narrative poem by Arthur Brooke entitled The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet (1562). The theme of two lovers thwarted by circumstances beyond their control, however, had long before been established in Western legend: Troilus and Cressida, Tristan and Isolde, to name only two such pairs. In more recent times, American folklore had assimilated the myth into the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.”

For more information about the Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association and upcoming shows visit, soppa.org.

Tickets can be purchased at the McKinley Box Office in the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, online at Ticketmaster.com or any Ticketmaster Outlet, or by calling 740-351-3600.

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or tallen@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.