theatre arts

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Lawrence Mourns the Death of Theatre Arts Professor Fred Gaines

It is with great sadness that I share with you today the news of the death of Professor Emeritus of Theatre and Drama Fred Gaines, who passed away early Monday, April 19 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old.

A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Fred joined the Lawrence theatre arts department in 1977 and was appointed the James G. and Ethel M. Barber Chair in Theatre 10 years later, a position he held until his retirement in 2000.

Fred Gaines

During his career, Fred epitomized the dedicated educator while remaining an active artist, passionately pursuing his love of language throughout his life. A productive writer who constantly explored new and interesting topics, he wrote more than 80 plays, many of which were performed on stages throughout the country and the world, including Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theatre, New York’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Club Theatre de Notre Dame in Cahors, France as well as Lawrence’s own Cloak and Stansbury theatres.

As a playwright, he was the recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright and Eugene O’Neill Fellowships.

In addition to writing, Fred directed more than 70 stage productions, acted in dozens more, wrote a pair of series for public television, and penned several movie scripts. The last production he directed was “Hometown,” a play he wrote about Appleton during World War II that was produced by Attic Theatre and performed in Cloak Theatre in March 2008.

Known for his incredible generosity to students, he was a compassionate and challenging mentor and a champion of student-driven projects, fostering an ethic of exploration through collaboration. He offered a wide array of tutorials and supervised independent study projects not only on all aspects of theater, but also filmmaking, poetry writing, fiction writing, as well as other kinds of experimental artwork students brought to him.

For most of his tenure, he closed the academic year with a big picnic in his back yard for all the students and any faculty who were involved in theatre productions that year.

Fred also gave generously of himself to the greater community. He was a long-time volunteer writing teacher at the Oneida Nation Reservation, taught at Appleton Renaissance School for the Arts, and wrote a series of short “Plays on History” that are still performed each summer at the History Museum at the Castle. In retirement, he taught a writing class for inmates at the Outagamie County Jail, always lending positive, but honest support for their works. He edited and published some of the writings of his inmate students in two volumes entitled “Writers Inside” in 2008 and 2009. His numerous community efforts were recognized in 2008 with the Celebrating Our Volunteers Paul and Elaine Groth Mentoring Award.

Prior to joining the Lawrence theatre arts department, Fred taught at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Institute of Art and Hope College. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. in theatre arts at the University of Minnesota.

He is survived by his wife, Judy, of Appleton, and children Matthew ’84, Netanya, Israel; Sarah, of Appleton; Sam ’93, of Appleton; and Jennifer ’97, of Appleton; and nine grandchildren Topaz, Ruby, Opal, Sapir, Ziv, Zachary, Elizabeth, Lillian and Charley.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, April 24 at 11 a.m. in Cloak Theatre with an opportunity to greet the family TBA. In the meantime, I am sure the entire Lawrence community joins me in sending our warmest sympathy and regard to Fred’s family.

Jill Beck

Lawrence alum John Middleton ’86 reminisced beautifully about Fred in January for the website Minnesota Playlist.

Fred’s son Matthew Gaines ’84, Netanya, Israel, eloquently remembered his father at a memorial service on April 24, 2010. (Click on the arrow below.)


Steppenwolf Theatre Director David Hawkanson ’69 Discusses Challenges Facing Arts Organizations

David Hawkanson, executive director of Chicago’s award-winning Steppenwolf Theatre, discusses the challenges facing arts organizations and his efforts to strengthen the arts in urban communities Monday, April 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center.

David Hawkanson

A 1969 graduate of Lawrence, Hawkanson presents “The Business of the Arts: How a Non-profit Arts Organization Navigates the Business and Government Sectors.” The event is free and open to the public.

Hawkanson has spent more than 35 years in arts management, including the past seven as executive director at Steppenwolf Theatre. In 2008, Steppenwolf’s production “August Osage County” won four Tony Awards, including Best Play.

Prior to joining Steppenwolf Theatre, Hawkanson spent six years as managing director of Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. His distinguished career includes positions as managing director at the Hartford Stage Company, which received a special Tony Award for outstanding achievement in regional theatre during his tenure and managerial posts with the Arizona Theater Company and San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.

Hawkanson also has served as artistic advisor to the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, a program committee member for the National Arts Stabilization Fund and a panelist and advisor to both the Ford Foundation’s Working Capital Fund and the Minneapolis Foundation’s Working Capital Reserve Fund. He is a former senior staff member at the National Endowment for the Arts and a former chairman and panelist for the theatre program of the NEA.

Stage Reading Features New Play by Lawrence University Professor Tim Troy

A staged reading of a new play written by Lawrence University Professor of Theatre Arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama Timothy X. Troy will be held Tuesday, April 6 at 7 p.m. in Harper Hall. The reading is free and open to the public.

“Radio and Juliet” is a cautionary tale that incorporates Shakespearean themes with shades of George Orwell and 1950’s science fiction amid the workings of an elusive crime spree only Juliet can solve.

It centers around an environmental crisis that forces the government to create two classes of citizens: the resettled Arids, who occupy the recently exposed lake bed of the Great Lakes and the Old Shores, who protect what remains of the fresh water supply. Juliet is on the eve of reaching adulthood when she falls in love with an Arid pirate broadcaster who challenges the assumptions upon which her culture depends.

The three-character reading features Lawrence junior Erika Thiede as Juliet and professional actors from the American Players Theatre and the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

The reading, a preliminary step before being staged as a full production, will feature actors reading from music stands with minimal props. Following the reading, the audience will be invited to participate in a group discussion to offer feedback on the plot or characters.

Troy began working on the project in 2006 and completed it earlier this year while on sabbatical. Last December he participated in a Lawrence-sponsored study tour of China that examined environmental and water policy issues with 12 students and colleagues from the economics and geology departments. Many of the themes explored in “Radio and Juliet” grew out of his China trip experiences.