Thursday, December 30, 2010

Celebrating Donn B. Murphy's Career in Video

Last October, Georgetown theatre alumni from across the decades gathered on the Hilltop to celebrate the more-than-half-century-long career of Dr. Donn B. Murphy, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year and is now retiring after some 35 years as president of the National Theatre in Washington.

Dr. Murphy not only taught theatre at Georgetown beginning in 1955, he was theatre at Georgetown.

When I arrived at Georgetown as a freshman in 1977, Dr. Murphy was no longer artistic director and faculty advisor to Mask & Bauble, but his influence was felt strongly in Poulton Hall and wherever Georgetown students decided to mount a performance.  Having heard all the terrific stories told about him as a teacher, I now regret not taking a theatre class as an undergraduate.

What sparked this blog post today was an article about Dr. Murphy in Wednesday's Washington Post by Jane Horwitz, which begins:
Donn B. Murphy is a man of the theater in every sense. As the National Theatre's president and executive director since the early 1980s, he has hobnobbed with such stars as Helen Hayes and Cherry Jones. Katharine Hepburn offered to paint the National's ceiling, he says.

Murphy also taught theater to five decades of Georgetown University students before retiring in 1999. Two alumni, director Jack Hofsiss and playwright John Guare, went on to win Tony Awards. At the end of the month, Murphy, who turned 80 in July, will step down from his posts at the National, though he'll remain on the theater's board.
Horwitz goes on to note:
Former students celebrated his birthday with a weekend of tributes at Georgetown in October, including panel discussions looking back his teaching career.

The tributes, viewable on YouTube, show a common thread: Murphy encouraged students to try the impossible. "Astonish me," he would say when they worried that they'd taken on too big a challenge. How to create a battering ram for a play at the last minute? Just hold three students up horizontally, and make them the battering ram.
Her mention of the videos on YouTube made me realize that, although I was behind the camera that day and posted the videos on a dedicated YouTube channel ("DBMat80video") a few weeks later, I hadn't written anything about the weekend here, nor had I posted a link to the videos or embedded them in an easy-to-find place.

Now I will.

There were three panel discussions during the afternoon of October 23. Those are currently on YouTube in several segments. That evening saw an entertaining series of tributes to Dr. Murphy, which included musical selections from various "Calliopes" -- the original, student-written musicals -- from over the years (including Senior Prom, discussed in Horwitz's article in the Post). The videos from the evening remain to be edited (my fault entirely) and will be posted on YouTube soon.

The panel discussions, which are about three hours long altogether, are very much an oral history of theatre at Georgetown since 1955.  

The first panel features several Georgetown alumni who have made a career in the performing arts: Louis Scheeder of New York University's Tisch School for the Arts moderated the panel, which included director Joe Banno; New York-based actress Victoria Bundonis; scenic designer Tony Cisek, Chicago-based director/producer Chris D'Amico; Tony Award-winning director Jack Hofsiss; Gus Kaikkonen, artistic director of the Peterborough Players; and Robert McNamara, cofounder of the Scena Theatre in Washington. This panel has four segments.

Panel I, Part 1

Panel I, Part 2:

Panel I, Part 3

Panel I, Part 4:

The second panel, also divided into four segments, features several Georgetown alumni who have become playwrights and writers, or who have participated in the Donn B. Murphy One-Acts Festival. It is moderated by Karen Berman and Susan Lynskey.

Participants are: Gus Kaikkonen, artistic director of the Peterborough Players; journalist and non-fiction author Robert Sabbag; children's and young adult novelist Rachel Vail; playwright Paul Notice; Georgetown senior and playwright Miranda Rose Hall; and playwright Jerry Mayer.

Panel II, Part 1:

Panel II, Part 2:

Panel II, Part 3:

Panel II, Part 4

The third panel ran a little longer than the others and consequently is divided into six segments.

It focuses on Calliope, for the better part of two decades Georgetown's tradition of creating and producing original musical theatre. Introduced by Lynne McKay, it is moderated by Donn B. Murphy and Donna Scheeder.

Participants are alumni Bill Bremer, Tim Fischer, John Gore, Jack Hofsiss, and Bryan Williams, and current student Meghan McCormick, as well as members of the audience who shared their own reminiscences, anecdotes, and recollections.

Panel III, Part 1:

Panel III, Part 2:

Panel III, Part 3:

Panel III, Part 4:

Panel III, Part 5

Panel III, Part 6 (Conclusion):

Watch for more videos from the DBM@80 celebration to be posted here -- soon, I hope!

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1 comment:

theatreman said...

Rick Sincere is a chronicler of his age. Would that Samuel Pepys and other historians had had at their disposal the means which Rick employs: not only words, but photography and video. Rick is a selfless and perceptive observerof "the passing stage." Bravo and thanks, Rick! --Donn Murphy