Jewel Box Theatre at First Christian Church announces 62nd season plans as sale talks are underway
The Jewel Box Theatre at First Christian Church has announced plans for its 62nd season even as the church is in talks to sell its iconic dome building.
“You will notice some changes from previous years due to unknown factors with the potential sale of the building,” the Rev. John Malget, First Christian Church senior minister, writes in a letter to the theater’s fans posted on the theater's Facebook page.
Oklahoma City's oldest continuously operating community theater, Jewel Box has announced plans for a three-show autumn “mini-season” that will run through December at the intimate in-the-round theater space that’s part of First Christian Church, 3700 N Walker Ave.
“The church board voted for that just in case of a sale,” said Jewel Box Theatre Box Office Manager Josie Walley, noting that Jewel Box generally produces a six-show season that starts in fall and continues through spring. “We should know by October if we’re going to do the second half.”
The fall mini-season will launch Aug. 22-Sept. 15 with Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 dark comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which was adapted into a beloved 1944 film directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. Denise Hughes will direct.
Al Bostick will direct Jewel Box’s Oct. 3-27 production of Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking drama “A Raisin in the Sun,” which was made into a 1961 film featuring the original Broadway cast Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Claudia McNeil.
Auditions for the first two shows are set for 2 to 4 p.m. July 6-7 at the theater, Walley said.
The autumn mini-season will close with Sandra Fenichel Asher’s comedy “Little Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes” Nov. 14-Dec. 8. Under the direction of Deborah Franklin, there will be no show on Thanksgiving.
Season tickets for the three-show autumn run are on sale for $30, rather than the usual $50 for a six-show season, Walley said. If the theater goes forward with a spring mini-season, people who buy the fall package will get a $5 discount on spring season tickets.
As my excellent colleagues Carla Hinton and Steve Lackmeyer have reported, Crossings Church announced Sunday it is moving forward with talks to buy First Christian Church’s distinctive egg-shaped dome building, which has been under threat of demolition, and open a satellite campus there.
Malget told The Oklahoman his congregation voted Sunday morning to allow the church's board of directors to proceed with negotiations to sell the church to Crossings, which wants to preserve the dome.
Blake Bastin, chief financial officer at Crossings, said the two churches have agreed on initial terms for a sale, which would include the 12 acres that is home to First Christian Church and the nearby outdoor amphitheater, where the Paseo Arts District annually puts on its popular summer Fairy Ball. The sale would not include nearby instructional buildings that are leased to Trinity School or acres of undeveloped residential zoned land.
The property was listed on Preservation Oklahoma’s 2019 Endangered Properties list, and former Oklahoma City Ward 2 councilman Ed Shadid cautioned earlier this year he had received warning the mid-century modern landmark was being eyed by a buyer for demolition and commercial development.
In response, the Oklahoma City Preservation Commission started the process of up-zoning the property to historic landmark status to stop demolition — a move opposed by First Christian Church and its attorney, David Box.
The entire property went on the National Register of Historic Places as First Christian Church Historic District in 2011, but that alone cannot stop demolition.
Following Sunday’s church service announcement, Crossings released a statement confirming the purchase effort, adding it will not demolish the current structure but will continue to operate it as a church. Crossings has not indicated what the future of the Jewel Box Theatre would be if the planned sale goes through.
As previously reported, the Jewel Box is an outreach of First Christian Church and has been producing community theater at NW 36 and Walker Avenue since the church opened there in 1956, led by the popular pastor Bill Alexander. The property was put up for sale two years ago with a dwindling congregation still worshiping there.
But the church has been staging plays for almost a century under the Jewel Box moniker, starting with its Jewel Box Players in its old location at NW 10 and Robinson.
“You, our dedicated patrons, are much of what has made the Jewel Box Theatre at First Christian Church of OKC what it is today,” Malget wrote in his letter to the theater’s fans. “Thank you for your years of loyal attendance.”
The theater opened its 2018-19 season closer, Samuel and Bella Spewak’s 1953 comedy “My Three Angels,” last Thursday, with performances continuing at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through May 12. Jewel Box’s annual season-capping Gem Awards are set for 7 p.m. May 18.