Friday, October 4th, was one of the most important days in the history of the School of Theatre and Dance. For marketing purposes, we called it "A Day of Revelry," and indeed it was! I thought for this newsletter, I'd break down the three events that occurred all in one day, especially because they illustrate just what is special about our community.
At 11:00 am, we honored Diana Moore, who gave thirty years of her life to our dance program, by dedicating the lobby of the Creative Movement Studio to her. This initiative was spear headed by alum Luke Kahlich, who coordinated not only the funding for the endeavor, but also a performance by a group of alums who, between dancing, spoke individually about the difference Ms. Moore made in their lives. For me and the audience, it reminded us just how much education touches students for the entirety of their lives, and when her portrait and attendant pictures were unveiled, I will never forget the look on Diana's face. She was truly surprised and honored, and those of us there witnessed a truly rich event.
In the afternoon, Josh Whitt, Jared Roberts, and Darin Moody led tours of the building for interested alums, audience members, the Dean's Council, and other dedicated patrons and potential students. I can't thank these three enough, who were ready to shepherd folks around the new space, explaining both the intricacies of and potential of each area in stimulating terms. Not only did Josh, Jared and Darin coordinate each event, but they, along with Cory Norman, made sure that we seamlessly transitioned from space to space, breaking down tables, working with the myriad caterers, and setting up the right atmosphere for each celebration.
The ribbon cutting, led by the President's office, was one of those unforgettable moments we experience maybe once in our lives. Not only did the President and the Dean speak eloquently about the need for the space and the importance of art, but we also heard from a member of the Board of Regents, Chris Huckabee, and Billy Breedlove, one of the leaders responsible for the construction of our new building. Maybe Dean Zahler said it best when he shared with us his ideas about the potential of art, inspired by a university setting:
If a University is an institution tasked with understanding the human mind and the natural world, the arts are an integral part of that mission, for we must understand the physical world, as well as imaginary worlds. It is our role to deconstruct, analyze and strip art bear of its meaning, in order to forge the tools the next generation of artists will use to express their own imagination. They must create their voice, their story, and their version of art.
I ended the ceremony emphasizing the educational uses of the space, using light as a metaphor for collaboration and interdisciplinary endeavors. Following the reception honoring the building, Cory Norman led a team of students to transition that event to an event honoring Dr. Marks.
Jonathan Marks actually retired a year ago, but we jokingly call it a "soft" retirement, because he returned immediately to direct the first show in our new Black Box, a devised take on Moliere's Doctor Love. I wrote him after seeing it that I can't imagine a better means to open our new building; not only was it created by students, but, because much of it depends on improvisation, no two shows were alike. A ribald comedy, Doctor Love playfully embraced all of the arts, expertly using the lobby for a prologue that thanked Bess Haley for her immense dedication to our School, and then took advantage of every space in the new black box, illustrating the potential of the new performance area, all the time involving audiences in their telling of a fable (peripherally) involving a thwarted romance.
And after that, yep, another reception, this one featuring coffee and desserts, and several speakers, both current faculty and alums, honoring Dr. Marks' distinguished career. Again, for those who attended, it was lovely to experience the immense reach of this extraordinary educator, not only for his colleagues, for me, and for alums, but also the community that he's served. After that, heading towards midnight, led by Cory Norman, we broke down the tables and facilitated the caterers, finishing a day that began for many of us at 5 am almost 17 hours later.
Those of us who closed down the building that evening were exhausted, but it was the happy sort of exhaustion that came from facilitating a day that truly exemplified just why we are here. While we honored Diana Moore, the foundations that funded our new space, and Dr. Marks, we were truly honoring our students, the reason we are here, and the reason a 17-hour day is a privilege, not an onerous task.
I'm convinced that those working now in the School of Theatre and Dance are among the best educators and facilitators in the country, and we belong to a college, led by a superior Dean, who understands imaginative ways to embrace the world of art both nationally and internationally. The word "revelry" may mean a wild, fun time, often noisy and celebratory, and sure, considering the crowds, we were indeed boisterous and merry making. But our day of revelry truly paid homage to the rituals that define our culture. And what a lovely culture it is, full of light, hope, excellence, and great promise for the future.