I hope that this letter finds you all well, and enjoying the late summer. My name is Gary Wilson, and for those of you who do not know me, I am an Artist-In-Residence and have been the resident scenic designer in the Skidmore Theater Department for the past 25+ years. This is my first letter to you as the head of the department, after having served as the Chair for the past two years. Let me share with you one thing that I have learned in that time, which is that you never really appreciate all that goes in to any undertaking until you try it for yourself! I am so grateful to Carolyn Anderson and Lary Opitz for all of their years of leadership in the Theater Department. I have only grown more aware over the past two years, of what a significant contribution they made to all of the faculty, staff, and every student to pass through the department!
I have so much that I want to share with you about the goings on in the theater. As many of you are aware, after many years of relative stability in the faculty and staff of the department, we are undergoing a large transformation. This began with our tragic loss of Alma Becker and David Yergan in June and September of 2013. Gautam Dasgupta opted for phased retirement beginning in 2014, and Carolyn Anderson will retire at the end of this academic year. Lary and Barbara Opitz, Patty Pawliczak, and Kate Kelly are all nearing the end of their careers at Skidmore as well. We have completed searches for several positions and brought in fresh faces to join the faculty and staff of the department. Jared Klein, Sue Kessler, James Varkala, John Michael DiResta, Jessica Thomas, and Lisa Jackson-Schebetta have all joined the department in the last few years! Information about each of them and their role in the department is available here. We will begin the next search for a full-time faculty member to take Carolyn’s position this fall.
Our current students continue to create remarkable, powerful work both in the department and at internships, apprenticeships, and study abroad programs. We have recently staged successful productions of Chuck Mee’s Big Love, The Orphan Sea by Caridad Svitch, Who Will Carry the Word by Charlotte Delbo, and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. We presented Edward Albee’s Fragments directed by then senior Shea Leavis ’17 and Shelia Callaghan’s Everything You Touch by recent graduate Rachel Karp ’18. We welcomed back Rebecca Marzalek-Kelly to direct Let the Right One In by Jack Thorne, and Phil Soltanoff to direct Lanford Wilson’s Balm in Gilead. We hosted Howard Fishman and his company to present his recent play A Star Has Burnt My Eye, and alum Sara Juli to present her one woman show Tense Vagina, an Actual Diagnosis. Alum Rachel Mason continues to return to offer our students Second City’s Introductory Improv Comedy class each spring. Len Jenkin – Advanced Playwriting Lab, Marcus Dean Fuller – Acting Shakespeare, Doug Seldin – Stage Combat, The Living Theater, Leon Ingulsrud and Akiko Aizawa from SITI company, Broadway producer David Stone, and The Orchard Project have all been in residence and/or offered classes in addition to our regular courses. Just this past week, we hosted Tectonic Theater to introduce their moment work to our company, as our fall Black Box production will be 33 Variations by Moisés Kaufman, which was originally created with Tectonic. As you can see, we have continued to offer many exciting opportunities to our students!
All of this great work and tremendous change is taking place amidst the backdrop of some rather large transitions within the all-college community. Much of the President’s Cabinet have retired within the past two to three years. We now have new Vice Presidents of Advancement, Student Affairs, Communications and Marketing, and Academic Affairs with a search underway for a new Vice President of Finance, Administration and Treasurer. It will be essential for the department to secure the support of many of these new administrators to continue to offer all that we have come to expect from the Skidmore Theater Department. This is the part where you can be of great assistance to us. If this place was special to you, offered you opportunities to grow, make friends, nurture your love of theater, and helped you to become the person that you are today, please consider making a statement to that effect, by becoming a member of Friends of the Skidmore Theater. The funds raised by the Friends allow us to bring many of the guest artists (including many alums!), speakers, and lecturers to the department. But, I think it even more important in this time of transition, to show the new members of the administration how much this department means to all of you, and that there is wide support for the Theater Department from alumna.
One of my goals as the head of the Department is to continue to connect with our alums, and to offer more opportunities for alums to meet and network with each other. During the memorial weekends for Dave and Alma the energy and camaraderie of everyone that was able to attend was transcendent. I spoke with many there about what an amazing atmosphere it was, and how we should get Theater alums together more often, and under better circumstances! To that end, I am happy to announce the first ever Skidmore Theater Reunion May 30th-June 2nd 2019 at our very own JKB! At this gathering we will attempt to set a record for the largest Viewpoints session, have a tech Olympics, host an alumni panel, have plenty of time to socialize over drinks and meals, introduce the new faculty and staff, and we will honor the extraordinary contributions of our retiring and recently retired faculty.
I hope that you will be able to join us at the reunion, that you will continue to return to the department to visit and see the work that our current students are doing, stay connected with each other and the department, and that you will help to support the department through this period of transition.
All my very best,
Our Theater reunion will happen in conjunction with Skidmore’s annual reunion weekend, so you’ll be able to easily register and make arrangements through the college website. This year’s reunion is for classes ending in 4’s and 9’s (hint to ’99, it’s your 20 year!!), but the Theater reunion is for ALL CLASS YEARS and will only happen every four years, so don’t miss it!