Ryan accepted a position as assistant professor of modern and contemporary drama at California Polytechnic University (San Luis Obispo). He will build the drama curriculum from the ground up and teach courses in contemporary avant-garde theater and performance as well as queer theory and psychoanalytic theory.
Megan was assistant stage manager for the recent Ann Arbor-based Performance Network Theatre production of the David Ives play, Venus in Fur. Megan earned a double minor in French and sociology/anthropology at K. Her Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse directing résumé included: Bringing Home the Bones, director, and Into the Woods, assistant director. Her acting credits include Violet Venable in Suddenly Last Summer and Clara in Alison Shields (by K alumnus Joe Tracz ’04). She continues her apprenticeship at Performance Network Theatre. Her eventual career goal is to be the artistic director of a small theatre company. Founded in 1981, Performance Network Theatre reaches 40,000 theatre patrons and children each year through its Professional Series and the Children’s Theatre Network. Performance Network Theatre also presents the Fireside New Play Festival and a series of classes on theatre-related topics.
John has written, directed and executive-produced “Heroes on Deck: World War II on Lake Michigan,” a one-hour film documentary that had its world premiere at Kalamazoo College. Heroes tells the story of two makeshift U.S. aircraft carriers on Lake Michigan during WWII, more than 15,000 Navy pilots who practiced landings and takeoffs on their decks, and the pilots who lost their lives trying. The film also reveals recent efforts to recover and restore some of the more than 100 planes that crashed and sank to the bottom of the Lake, including two that are at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo. “Heroes on Deck” will premiere nationally on public television during Memorial Day 2016 weekend.
June has published, at age 90, From the Inside: A Look at Nursing Homes and Their Patients in Today’s Elder Care System. The book provides her insider look at the day-to-day happenings of nursing homes both as a resident and a friend to residents. Central to those observations is her unique mix of humor, introspection, and occasional depression as she faced the work of getting well and coping with pain.
During the last decade June spent nine months in three different nursing homes in Montana and the Midwest. “People need to know what it’s like to be in a nursing home,” she said.
Though it occurred decades ago, her father’s nursing home stay in New York remains seared into her memory, and was the impetus for the book. “I was so furious,” she remembers. “It was so negative. To be in a nursing home is to truly be someone different.” But, over the years, she says, she learned that “Nursing homes are NOT the worst thing in the world. I came to scorn and stayed to praise,” she concludes.
June enrolled in Kalamazoo College at the age of 16. She majored in English and theatre. The latter may not be surprising, given the fact that she had been a child performer at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. During her student days at K, a weekly campus segment she did on the local radio station eventually became a full-time job with CBS-WKZO in Kalamazoo. She worked on a feature called “News of Women Today,” which carried stories on women’s responses to World War II throughout the world and the effect the war had on women’s status and work.
June and her husband, Wayne, have lived near Whitehall, Montana for 20 years. They spent most of their marriage in East Aurora, N.Y., where Wayne worked for Fisher-Price. June earned her M.A. at Syracuse University and taught there. She also directed plays at both the Buffalo and the East Aurora theaters. And she performed her own material in a series of one-woman shows. She and Wayne eventually moved west to be closer to their two sons and five grandchildren. She helped establish a theatre group in Whitehall. For four years, “Jefferson Valley Presents” staged an outdoor dinner theatre production on the Lewis and Clark expedition. June wrote the script, performed, and helped with the costuming.
Walter died on August 5, 2015. He matriculated to K from Vicksburg (Mich.) High School. He earned his degree in biology and was deeply involved in theatre productions on campus. After graduation he attended Yale School of Drama for a year. On June 2, 1963, he married Lela Davis in Vicksburg. Walter followed his love of theatre as a freelance theatre director his entire career. He directed more than 100 plays in his lifetime and acted in many as well. He also was a founding member of the Festival Playhouse at Kalamazoo College. He was a true liberal arts spirit with many varied interests. He was a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and the American Conifer Society. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather blessed with a very curious mind and insatiable love of the arts. Walter is survived by Lela, his wife of 52 years, their three children and two grandchildren.
There’s no business like show business. And Kalamazoo College’s Department of Theatre Arts just showed the acting world it means business.
K theatre arts majors Grace Gilmore ’15 and Lindsay Worthington ’17 recently returned from competing at the 47th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The pair beat out thousands of other student artists from across the country to present their work at the week-long, all- expenses-paid festival in the nation’s capital. Only 125 students were invited to attend.
Gilmore, a theatre arts major and religion minor, was one of only eight students in the country competing for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Worthington, a theatre arts and music double major, traveled to Washington, D.C. to showcase her talents in Sound Design Excellence.
Both categories featured KCACTF students from much larger colleges and universities, several of whom were graduate students enrolled in Masters of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) theatre programs and other specialized acting classes.
“Grace and Lindsay are extraordinary,” says Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts. “They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields. It’s rare for students from any small program and liberal arts college to achieve this sort of recognition.”
Gilmore spent the week at the Festival immersed in classes that focused on everything from stage combat to situation comedy. She worked alongside professional actors, met with casting directors, and had the opportunity to network with peers from across the nation and in the Washington, D.C. theatre community.
In addition, she went behind the scenes and toured the Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the world-famous Shakespeare Theatre Company.
“Just being there was so surreal,” says Gilmore. “It was an unbelievable experience.”
For the 21-year-old, whose first acting role was as a jester in a middle school play, performing on the Kennedy Center stage in front of peers, directors, New York-based casting agents (and even her parents!) was the high point of the week.
Her parents, K alums Sherry (Christy) and Jim Gilmore, class of 1983, were both theatre arts majors.
“You could say theatre is in my blood,” Grace says.
Worthington, meanwhile, experienced her own festival highlights. In her master class she worked alongside professional lighting designer (and six-time Tony award nominee) Beverly Emmon as well as award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio artist Obadiah Eaves.
Emmon and Eaves critiqued the students’ work, offering their feedback, suggestions, and ideas. And the students got the chance to share meals and free time with the two professionals.
“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Worthington says. “We were able to ask them questions about their careers and really get to know them.”
The Road to Nationals
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, KCACTF is a national theatre program working to improve the quality of college theatre in the United States. Comprised of 18,000 students from more than 600 academic institutions in eight different regions, KCACTF gives theatre departments and student artists the opportunity to showcase their work and receive outside assessment.
Earlier this year, KCACTF officials visited K and critiqued the work of the students in the theatre department. Gilmore and Worthington, along with 13 others K students, were nominated to attend the KCACTF Region III in Milwaukee. Three additional K students attended as part of their senior class seminar, and two others participated for professional growth and networking. The group joined 2,000 other theatre students from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin for the weekend competition.
Gilmore, nominated for her performance in Romeo and Juliet, beat out 274 students for the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Award. Of the 16 finalists who competed in the final round of the competition, 13 of the 16 were post-undergraduates working on their M.F.A.
“I was absolutely shocked. We went into it clearly as underdogs,” Gilmore says. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win. No one from K has ever won. When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it.”
She received a scholarship and an invitation to attend the National Festival.
Worthington was the only student nominated to attend the regional competition for her work on TWO (!) different entries in sound design. Her submission for Peer Gynt ended up taking top honors in Milwaukee—giving her a ticket to the National Festival, which turned out to also be an unplanned, but very welcome, trip home for this Bethesda, Maryland, native.
Neither Grace nor Lindsay took top honors at the National Festival, but they returned to Kalamazoo with a playbill full of experiences, contacts, job and internship opportunities, and memories to last a lifetime.
“I didn’t go into it thinking I would win,” says Worthington, who was awarded the Williamstown Theatre Festival Internship for Sound Design. “I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had I been stressed about the competition. Just being there, to me, felt like winning.”
The women who performed at the WOW Café Theatre on the Lower East Side of New York City sometimes called themselves the Uncooperative Cooperative. Holly Hughes ’77 was one of those women. She has also said, more than once, that WOW saved her life.
WOW, or Women’s One World, a feminist theatre space started in the early 1980s, was (and still is) a place where many gay women like Hughes found themselves and their art. WOW became the safe place where women who had long felt themselves on the margins of society could express themselves as rebels even while developing lasting bonds of friendship and support with each other. Their uncooperative selves found cooperation in each other.
Hughes is a contributing editor to Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café Theater (co-edited with Carmelita Tropicana and Jill Dolan). The book, published by University of Michigan Press in 2015, is a collection of memories, play scripts, and photographs of WOW’s first decade. Authors, along with Hughes, include playwright and actor Lisa Kron ’83; Carmelita Tropicana from the theater troupe the Five Lesbian Brothers; and actors and playwrights Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, Deb Margolin, and others.
“WOW was so warm and welcoming,” she says. “It was my sorority. They were breaking the rules. I was looking for that kind of sense of community. Particularly a feminist sort of community.”
WOW was different than other theatre groups in that no play was censured, no auditions were required, any play got the stage. Whatever members wrote was performed, no questions asked.
“The idea that was implicit in this was that people get better by doing the work,” Hughes says.
Having that kind of acceptance, Hughes found, fostered a daring creativity. She had expected to work the back stage, but the Café was too small—“I think maybe it was 12 feet across,” Hughes says—to have a back stage. She instead found herself performing and writing plays of her own. And she found she liked it.
“When I say now that WOW saved my life—I came of age in a place where I couldn’t access a feminist and LGBT movement. And while I loved K, and I have fond memories of my time there, it was at a time before we had women’s studies, for example. I was really struggling with trying to figure out who I was in the world, and it wasn’t just personal questions about my sexuality. It was larger questions about identity and a larger political landscape, about feminism and what was then known as the gay liberation movement. WOW helped put my personal struggles into a larger political context. That helped me enormously.
“At WOW, I was able to have conversations with women that didn’t make me feel crazy,” Hughes adds. “Working on this book, I realized a lot of women coming of age at the same time I did, in the 70s and 80s, the way that they experienced their gender, their sexual identity, was with the feeling that they were crazy. Their sense of injustice was made to seem like a psychological problem. Looking back, I realized how adrift we all felt. But here at WOW we found affirmation.”
Hughes found her voice as a performer and as a playwright. Her work has earned her critical praise, including two Obie Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (one of which was recalled when her art was discovered to have a gay theme), Creative Capital, and others.
Hughes studied visual art at Kalamazoo College. “And I took a lot of English. I loved it. I wasn’t an English major, but I was very interested in writing, but still thinking of myself as a visual artist. This was the world of which I wanted to be a part.”
In art and theatre, too, Hughes says she has seen a huge shift in work by and about women and groups at the margins who have not always found venues for their art.
“In my more than 30 years working in theatre and performance art, I’m seeing incredibly thoughtful, innovative, provocative, confusing work done about gender and sexuality and race. We are moving away from the stereotypes. Things are starting to shift, they are starting to break open. And audiences are asking for it. Audiences want to be challenged.”
As a professor today in theatre and drama, at the Stamps School of Art and Design, and of women’s studies at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Hughes strives to teach the upcoming generations to think about the differences in people in a new way. Sharing the manuscript of Memories of the Revolution while still in manuscript with some of her students, she found that the material and the experiences recounted drew interest.
“I’m really interested in uncovering what my students want to say,” Hughes says. “What their desires are, what’s burning and big inside them. I want to help them put that into a larger context.”
While some of the questions with which Hughes grappled in her earlier years on the stage are less demanding today, she finds that some of her students have questions of their own, ones that fit the context of their times and that require a voice that is just as personally defining.
“My students who are not white, who are not male, who are not cisgendered, students who come from poverty or other experiences of marginalization—there’s a process of finding a voice that you feel can be heard and respected,” Hughes says. “I can help them find that voice.”
Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrated its Golden Anniversary in academic year 2013-14. In tribute, BeLight published short profiles of some FP alumni. We conclude that feature in this issue of BeLight with spotlights on Mary Mathyer ’14 and David Landskroener ’14.
Mary Mathyer ’14 graduated this past June with majors in theatre and biology – each equally demanding and surprisingly complementary. Biology requires precision, but theatre teaches tenacity. Mathyer worked behind the scenes and acted on stage, experiencing first hand that each and every role in theatre is crucial for the success of the production – not unlike sundry scientists collaborating on an important research question.
Majors: Theatre arts and biology
Study Abroad: Nairobi, Kenya. “This incredibly challenging and fulfilling program took me out of the familiar and forced me to adapt and grow as a person.”
Senior Individualized Project: “Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling by Nitrospina in the Dark Ocean.” “It is essentially using genomic evidence to investigate the metabolic pathways of a specific bacteria found deep in the ocean. This research was conducted at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine.”
Key K Experiences: Summer 2011 at the Chautauqua Theatre Company in Chautauqua, New York, as the carpentry and scenic paint intern. “Through the course of 10 weeks, we built and struck three sets for five shows.” Summer 2013 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences for SIP research as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) intern.
Past Theatre Experience
“I was heavily involved in my high school theatre department, in a few shows as an actor but mostly as a member of the crew. My roles included carpenter, painter, props master, and stage manager among others. I also had an internship with Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago during my senior year of high school. I worked with them mostly on the set but also on various odd jobs involved in running a store front theatre company.”
“I have been involved in eight shows at K, both main stage and at the Dungeon. I have acted (Granny, among other roles, in Into the Woods), sound designed, been a spot op and board op. I have stage managed both Dungeon and main stage productions. I am often found in the shop working on building and painting the sets. I have received certificates of merit from the American College Theatre Festival for my video design of Stuff Happens in the fall of ’11 and for my stage management of Cloud Nine in the winter of ’12. I have taken classes in all areas of the department. It has all been extremely rewarding.”
“I plan to continue by biology education in graduate school. And though I don’t intend to continue my education in theatre, I definitely want to stay involved in theatre on the side. It has been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I have no intention of giving it up.”
On Kalamazoo College
“I have taken classes with most of the theatre faculty, and they all bring unique views to what they do. It’s impossible for me to pinpoint my most influential professor or class because they all have impacted my theatre experience. I found every class challenging in some way, and all broadened my knowledge of the theatre world. Theatre is very hands-on. It is time intensive, but it is easy to put in the necessary dedication when you are doing something you love. Sometimes I felt like the theatre department has taken over my life, leaving me no time for anything else, but then I missed it when I wasn’t there. Theatre has taught me how to balance everything and still give my all. It’s addicting, but not a habit I want break.”
On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary
“It was exciting to be on campus for this year-long celebration, furthermore because it was my senior year. Everyone wants to go out with a bang, and having my final Playhouse season correspond with such a department milestone made the year unforgettable!”
David Landskroener ’14 thinks failure teaches as much, or more, than success. In theatre Landskroener honed his storytelling skills and developed friendships that he expects will be with him long after graduation.
Major: Double major in theatre arts and English with a writing emphasis and a concentration in media studies
Study Abroad: Aberdeen, Scotland. “I had an incredible experience abroad in Aberdeen. The city felt like a breathing entity all of its own, and the windswept greyness was very inspiring to me as a writer. I had so many great experiences, but my favorite two were visiting Loch Ness on a perfect blue sky day (saw a ripple in the water too, which was definitely Nessie), and seeing my favorite show ever, Matilda the Musical, on the West End in London.”
Senior Individualized Project: “I wrote a novel called Coffee Dog, about, naturally, coffee and dogs, and the combination of the two.”
Key K Experience: “I completed an externship at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis the summer after my sophomore year. I was able to observe new plays being developed and see what a potential theatre/playwriting career could be like.”
“The winter of my freshman year (2011), I acted in a blocked stage reading of local playwright G. William Zorn’s new play Trinity at the Theatre Kalamazoo New Playfest. That spring I played keyboard for the Festival Playhouse production of The Who’s Tommy. Fall quarter of sophomore year I was dramaturg for Stuff Happens, and in winter I had a staged reading of a play I wrote in Ed Menta’s playwriting class put on at the New Playfest. I was also a spotlight operator for Cloud 9 and assistant stage manager for Back of the Throat.
“My best theatre experience was when I took Directing I with Ed Menta. It was a demanding course, but when I saw my final scene that I directed—a scene from the film Precious—come to life, I instantly knew that all the writing and charts were worth it. I had brought this story to life in front of an audience, a feeling which I can only call a theatre high.”
“I want to continue writing and hopefully wrangle that into a career. I’m considering eventually enrolling in a screenwriting program, or perhaps the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A career in film also excites me, because I’m very interested in both screenwriting and film marketing. But my ultimate goal, no matter what happens with my life, is to just be happy.”
On Kalamazoo College
“K has been an environment conducive to my growth, nurturing my gifts and enriching my knowledge of the world. I have loved the majority of my classes, especially the writing ones, but the two classes that have shaped my K experience the most are “Playwriting” and “Intermediate Fiction” with Andy Mozina.
“I had never written a play before taking “Playwriting,” and boy, did I discover something incredibly fun and exciting. I learned how to make a story immediate and connect with an audience on a visual and auditory level. Professor Menta was (and still is) a very caring force in helping me cultivate this new interest. I even had a play I wrote in that class accepted at two new play festivals.
“’Intermediate Fiction’ influenced me tremendously. Professor Mozina is incredibly smart and funny and really knows how to connect with an individual on a personal level. The students in my workshop were some of the best writers and thoughtful people I’d ever met, and their varied critical perspectives really helped me pare my writing into something better, into the distinct voice that I have now.
“The K theatre department has been enormously significant in my time at K. I have made mistakes, learned new skill sets, seen the glory of success and the underrated glory of failure, grown as both an artist and an individual, and, best of all, made some of my dearest friends, who will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life. I have also become a better storyteller, which is the aspect of my life that I’m most eager to improve. I’m even sure my life after K will be in theatre, but my time with the theatre department of Kalamazoo College has played one of the biggest roles in shaping me into who I am.”
On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary
“I am incredibly happy that Festival Playhouse is still going strong after 50 years and continuing every year to give birth to a dizzyingly diverse array of plays. Unfortunately, Nelda Balch is no longer with us, but I think that Festival Playhouse has kept her vision alive through the hard work and artistic genius of those who followed in her footsteps. The future is full of stories just waiting to have their covers torn off and displayed proudly on the stages at Kalamazoo College.”
Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrates its Golden Anniversary this academic year and, in tribute, BeLight will publish short profiles of some FP alumni—two each in this year’s three issues of the e-magazine. May features Lisa Kron ’83 and Joe Hamlin ’02.
The Long Road
When Lisa Kron was nominated in 2008 for a Tony for her play, Well, the applause could be heard on the Kalamazoo College campus. Kron’s plays have walked the boards on and off Broadway, and Kalamazoo College was the first college to stage Well, a play about Kron’s experiences attending a predominantly African-American elementary school as a girl with a Jewish heritage. During that staging, Kron spoke to K students as well as to students from Western Michigan University about her career as an actress and playwright, illustrating once again how theatre at K incorporates every discipline into a liberal arts education, going Well beyond simply staging a play. Kron credits her experience at K, both on and off campus, to her success in theatre. The playwright/actor lives in New York City and is a member of the Class of 1983, though she notes she’s “still missing a science requirement, so no degree. But I did finish my SIP!”
Study Abroad: London. “Loved it!!!”
SIP: Lecture/Performance on the dearth of roles for women in theater called “There’s Nothing Like a Dame.”
Key K Experience: “GLCA Philadelphia Urban Semester – LOVED!”
First Job in Theatre/TV
ANTA Company National Tour – Auditioned while representing K at the regional ACTF.
“Hmm. I don’t think there generally are big breaks. For me, as for many if not most people, it’s a long road, through many different landscapes.”
“My work on the screen resembles my work at K–limited to bit parts. Some Law and Order. A couple of films, most notably, my turn as a waitress in the final scene in the first Sex In the City movie.”
Playwriting fellowships from the Lortel and Guggenheim Foundations, Sundance Theater Lab, the Lark Play Development Center, and the MacDowell Colony.
The Cal Arts/Alpert Award, a Helen Merrill Award, grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts.
A three-year playwriting residency through the American Voices New Play Initiative at Arena Stage.
Obie, Bessie, GLAAD, L.A. Drama-logue, and Lilly Awards.
Nominations for Tony, Drama Desk, Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Susan Smith Blackburn Awards.
Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, with lyrics by Lisa Kron, music by Jeanine Tesori, directed by Sam Gold. Fun Home premiered at the Public Theater October 2013.
Also appeared in the return of Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan, directed by Lear de Bessonet, starring Taylor Mac, at the Public Theater, October 2013.
On Kalamazoo College
“Lowry Marshall changed my life. I still draw on my theater studies in London. And that beautiful thrust stage at K is still one of my favorite stages.”
Joe Hamlin ’02 is the man behind the production, making what theatre goers see on stage possible. He has worked on hundreds of plays, including Broadway-bound productions, and it’s a passion that was fostered on the stages at K. Hamlin is technical director at the Center Theatre Group in California, overseeing The Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre. He is also production manager for The Ahmanson Theatre. He studied theatre with Ed Menta and Lanny Potts, and earned a master’s in technical design and production from Yale School of Drama.
Hamlin is passing it forward: Lee O’Reilly, a K grad and current student at the Yale School of Drama, worked with Hamlin last summer during a 12-week assistantship in technical directing.
Major: Theatre with a concentration in the classics.
Study Abroad: Athens, Greece
SIP: “After Genocide: A Three Week Journey Through Croatia”
Kalamazoo College Theater Experience: Dr. Faustus; Marat Sade; Twilight
First Job in Theatre
Assistant technical director, Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont
“I did summer stock work in my first theatre job in Massachusetts, and then the previous technical director was fired. The job became mine—it was a crazy time, the hardest time of my life, but it was also wonderful.”
Joe has worked on hundreds of shows. He’s particularly proud of: Clybourne Park at the Mark Taper Forum; End of the Rainbow at the Ahmanson Theatre; and The Second City’s A Christmas Carol Twist Your Dickens! at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology’s “The Golden Hammer Award” (usitt.org)
Recent shows on which Hamlin worked as the production manager: The Sunshine Boys, a revival of the Neil Simon play, starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch; and Harmony, a musical revival by Barry Manilow.
On Kalamazoo College
“I planned to go into political science, not theatre, when I first came to K, but as time went on, I realized I was finding myself in theatre. A lot of exciting things were going on there. It was a great environment, and the people became like family. Lanny Potts was a great mentor to me.”