Today’s post was written by Jaida Macklin, a junior English major with a theatre arts and African-American studies minor.
Once a year in honor of Women’s History Month, the dedicated staff of William H. Hannon Library host an event for their Women’s Voices series. This year, Charles E. Erven compiled a group of talented students to participate in a panel of dramatic readings connected to his Spring 2019 exhibition, “Making a Scene: The Process of Stage Design.”
The exhibition details the achievements of Erven’s career whilst paying homage to the art of stage design, an area of the theatre community which, according to Erven, is not always given the credit it deserves.
Having received his MFA and BFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Erven teaches courses in theatre design at Loyola Marymount University. For this evening’s event, he selected four women whose creativity and ambition paved new paths in the world of theatre. For the event, each reading delved into the life and artistry of world-renowned, groundbreaking women in the world of stage design such as Jean Rosenthal, Patricia Zipprodt, May Nickell Rankin, and Patricia Mcllrath. The performance was directed by Kevin Wetmore, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts.
The first woman to be portrayed as well as the first acknowledged lighting design professor in America, Jean Rosenthal used provocative and essential shadows to great effect. It didn’t take long in her career for her artistic contribution to be recognized and she worked with some of the most significant artists of her time. Sika Lonner performed her words.
Patricia Zipprodt was known for her technique of painting fabrics and worked with a variety of Broadway legends. A famous quote from her is as stated, “A play is a painting that moves. Instead of holding it still, and you are looking at it, you hold still and it scrolls by.” She was portrayed by Cecille Forsyth Rios.
Born in 1868 and portrayed by Saloni Kanani, May Nickell Rankin was a professor at Carroll Academy and was responsible for establishing strong department programs and core curriculum in dramatic oratory and other subjects, highlighting performance skills and character development.
Patricia McIlrath was an American educator and theatre director whose career paved the way for theatre communities in Kansas City, Missouri like no other. The theatre student who was responsible her incredible reenactment was Brynn Doyle.
Overall, it was incredibly inspiring and eye-opening to see the tenacity and passion of the performers. It is clear to the audience that the students were dedicated in their research and preparation in a pursuit of realistic and accurate as possible portrayals. Freshman biology major Hannah Nauertz said, “The idea that there is so much work from the actors that goes into these performances. They did really well and kept it interesting.”
An intimate setting, the audience were certainly focused and in tune with the performances. Despite the small crowd, the reactions from the audience conveyed that they were not only attentive, but entertained as laughter and noises of surprise at the actors’ realistic portrayals indicated such.
“I’m not involved in theatre at all, but when I think of theatre back in the day, I don’t associate it with women being pioneers because of what we’re taught. Women are usually left out of that dialogue,” Junior screenwriting major Olivia Piraino commented. “Hearing about Jean Rosenthal was especially eye opening. She was badass.”
Thank you, Jaida, for sharing your perspective on this event! If you are a student interested in being an event correspondent at a library event, contact John Jackson, Head of Outreach and Communications for the William H. Hannon Library.