By Adrienne GavulaAfter seeing Athens featured in the book “100 Best Small Arts Towns,” it’s easy to see why Ohio University is turning to the arts as a form of celebration. Not many universities do this, but Ohio University is. The play, “Free Man of Color;” “Turning 200,” an event featuring original music, live dance and video segments; and the book, “Ohio University 1804-2004: The Spirit of a Singular Place,” written by Betty Hollow are all being used to celebrate the University’s 200th birthday.
The college of fine arts played a major role in producing the first two pieces. “Free Man of Color” is about Ohio University’s first African-American graduate and the nation’s fourth, John Newton Templeton. The three-character play was written by Charles Smith, head of the professional playwriting program in the School of Theater.
The play is starting in Chicago, where almost every publication and radio station is already talking about it, Smith says. “It’s great that this play has a life outside of Ohio University,” Smith says. “It’s impossible to talk about the play without mentioning the University.”
“Turning 200” is a multi-media extravaganza featuring an original score by Mark Phillips, professor of composition and electronic music, and live dance choreographed by Lisa Ford Moulton, associate professor of dance.
“What’s great about these two pieces is that they will have a life beyond the celebration,” says Raymond Tymas-Jones, college of fine arts dean. “Even at the 400-year celebration, these pieces will be available to display.”
While Smith was researching material for his play, he found facts about Ohio University in a variety of places. Betty Hollow has taken these facts and made them into a book, “Ohio University, 1804-2004: The Spirit of a Singular Place.” She depicts the historical, academic and cultural events that helped shaped the school’s growth through personal stories from alumni, faculty, staff and friends and through short sketches describing colleges, unique activities and more.
“For a community the size of Athens, there’s an extraordinary amount of art and art expression, not just within the University, but also extending into the town,” says Tymas-Jones.
Adrienne Gavula is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.