Saturday, September 8, 2012


Hours before the cast of the 2012 Gridiron show takes the stage, I wanted to share some history of the event, written by Sue Merkner. We convinced Sue to do a video this year, and then she couldn't resist joining the crew for the live show, too. I'm delighted we have her insight and knowledge of the event's history. Thank you to everyone who's helped make "Rumor Has It" what it is today (and if you still need tickets, they'll be $25 at the door). See you at the Watson Fine Arts Center, 1801 Martin Luther King Drive, doors open at 7 p.m.
-Eva Ruth Moravec

A brief history of the San Antonio Gridiron Show – 1985 to 2012
By Susan A. Merkner

Gridiron shows traditionally are produced by journalists as local fundraisers, combining original skits and song parodies in a live theatrical production that spoofs newsmakers as well as the journalists who cover them.

The show’s name comes from the annual dinner presented by the Gridiron Club, the oldest and one of the most prestigious journalistic organizations in Washington, D.C. Membership in the club, which was established in 1885, is by invitation only. The club’s dinner features satirical music skits by members and politicians.

The first Gridiron show in San Antonio was presented in the fall of 1985. It was the brainchild of Gebe Martinez, then a reporter at the San Antonio Light – back when the city had competing daily newspapers. Henry Cisneros was mayor of San Antonio at that time, and he graciously attended performances during his term of office, setting a precedent for subsequent elected officials.

The first four shows were directed by the late Wayne Elkins of the San Antonio Little Theater, which is now the Playhouse. After Elkins became ill and died, the Gridiron was directed each year by Gloria “G.L.” Liu, who also served as the show’s choreographer in its earliest years. GL has directed all the local Gridiron shows since 1989.

In the early years, about 50 local journalists were involved in each show -- reporters and editors from San Antonio’s two daily newspapers at the time, the Light and the San Antonio Express-News, as well as local television and radio stations and magazines.

The show may look effortless (!) but it involves many people giving their time to help write the script and plan the show, as well as serving as musicians, producing the artwork and playbill, and handling publicity and ticket sales. Starline Costumes has provided the show’s costumes from the beginning. Backstage personnel and technical assistants also assist with each performance.

The San Antonio Little Theater, now the Playhouse, was the original home of the Gridiron show in its first four years. In 1989, a bigger auditorium was needed, so the show moved to the Carver Community Cultural Center.  For many years, the Gridiron was staged at McAllister Fine Arts Center at San Antonio College, typically selling out each performance.

After the San Antonio Light closed in January 1993, the pool of local journalists was reduced, and the Gridiron no longer was produced annually.

The most recent show, in 2007, was staged at the Josephine Theatre. The theme of the show was “Up in Smoke” in honor of the Helotes mulch fire. Special guest appearances at the show were made by brothers Julian and Joaquin Castro.

One of the biggest changes in the Gridiron over the years has been the use of technology to enhance the show’s production values.  In the earliest years, there were no microphones available for the actors, so everyone had to learn how to project! This year’s show features sophisticated sound and lighting systems and professionally produced video shorts. It’s also the first local Gridiron show to be marketed through social media and involve online ticket sales.

Bottom line: All proceeds from the show are contributed to the San Antonio professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for student scholarships. SPJ is the nation’s most broad-based professional association for journalists, dedicated to freedom of the press and high standards of ethical behavior. The scholarship money is donated to area students studying journalism.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice historical piece. And what a lot of research!