Theater legacy

Chico State mourns two greats

Two retired Chico State professors, both with deep roots in the Theater Arts Department, died within a day of one another last week.

Lawrence Wismer, who taught drama from 1963 until 1980, died of natural causes on March 21 at the age of 90. Lloyd Jones, a professor of speech and drama for 33 years, died in Omaha, Neb., on March 22 after a long illness. Jones was 86.

Wismer is perhaps best known for the black-box theater that bears his name in honor of the contributions he made to the theater program. One of those contributions is Court Theatre, the summer theater program that brings a dozen or so hand-picked theater students together for intensive summer workshops and performances.

Randy Wonzong of the Department of Theater Arts said, “It is true that there is a theater on campus named after Larry, but Court Theatre, which still carries on today, is his lasting, living memorial.”

When Jones began his Chico tenure he was the theater faculty.

“His knowledge of theater goes back to when ‘salt water dimmers’ were still in use,” shared friend and colleague Marty Gilbert, adding, “He hired me, Randy Wonzong and Gail Holbrook.”

Jones started the university’s debate program and worked with Wismer on Court Theatre.

Jones was also a huge supporter of the school’s athletic programs, announcing contests from 1949 until retirement as the "Voice of Chico State Athletics." "A large piece of Theater Arts Department history [at Chico State] passes on now that these elder stalwarts of the department have departed," added Wonzong, "They will be missed."