Legends? Myths, right? Wrong. Legends can be real.
John Paul is a legend in Valley stage history. Yet, if you would have asked him, he would have told you that he was just a teacher. Don’t make such a fuss.
A teacher. That is like saying that Michelangelo’s David is just a hunk of marble. John taught drama at Phoenix College from 1948 to 1990. His classes were not only popular, they were renowned. Students were attracted from across the country and around the world.
“He was like some wonderful disease,” Lise Miller, a former student, says. “He was contagious. He inoculated you with theater and you were hopelessly infected. His passion became your passion.”
John was born in Tarkio, Mo., and graduated from Tarkio College. He earned a graduate degree in theater from the University of Iowa and attended the Yale School of Drama. He served in the Army during World War II and later in the reserves.
John and his wife Margaret came to Phoenix in 1948. They moved into an apartment near Phoenix College, which had just been built. Margaret remembered it as “just heaven. John only needed to go out the back door and he was literally at work.”
There was a Book Reviews club on campus. John was very involved. “He loved doing Book Reviews,” Margaret said, “but because he was more interested in entertaining, he didn’t care if people bought the book or read it. He picked mostly biographies of interesting people. John would rehearse before the readings by going to the auditorium. He had tons of notes but he hardly looked at them. ”
For most of his time at Phoenix College, John was chair of the theater program. During his time, the school produced more than 100 plays. Such was his reputation that the works were as popular with the Valley public as they were with students and faculty members.
The college’s stage facility is named the John Paul Theatre in his memory. The John Paul Scholarship is awarded to students participating in Drama/Theatre activities.
Arizona Republic, Dec. 24, 1967