Dear Alumni, Patrons, Colleagues, and Friends,
As I write, the summer solstice is approaching. As the daylight continues to grow, so does our optimism about the future at the School of Drama. While our view to the horizon before us is still impeded in places, it is the clearest view we’ve had for some time. The University of Washington is making plans for an Autumn quarter that is fully in person again. Almost two-thirds of adults in Washington state have had at least one vaccination shot. And the School of Drama is expecting to be producing a season of live performances in the Jones Playhouse next season.
Looking back at the last sixteen months, it has certainly been a period of great loss. Billions of people have lost loved ones and many are still struggling for their livelihood. It has also been a time of remarkable heroics. Hundreds of thousands of people have spoken out and stood up for a better world, more equitable systems, and a disruption of “business as usual.”
Within the School of Drama, too, there has been deep loss and remarkable achievement this year. Our dear colleague Skip Mercier passed away in April, and emeritus faculty member Sarah Bryant-Bertail passed in April. Many faculty and staff in the school have lost family members. We will soon have new separations as Deb Trout retires, and Sue Bruns, Holly Arsenault, and Caroline Rensel each plan to depart the school this summer and journey into new pathways of their lives.
I have been very proud of our students, faculty, and staff this year. They all have exceeded expectations for making and teaching theatre, and kept the school not just afloat, but artistically thriving. Thriving in production: with our first-ever virtual production, So Far, So Good, and our first-ever tri-production Uncharted Waters with Cornish and Seattle University; with our MFA student-directed productions of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and Rosmersholm, and a simple but powerful reading of BA Darby Sherwood’s original play Mrs. Lenin. Thriving too in the classroom: from imaginative BA capstones and exciting graduate classroom projects, to the extraordinary teaching and research of our PhD students, to graduating senior Jarrett Johnson’s winning of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s medal; And thriving in community: as person after person maintained personal commitments to grace and compassion in supporting our community. Throughout all of this, our students, faculty and staff have displayed exceptional talent, skill, discipline, kindness and fortitude.
Ask anyone from the school how the year went, and I’m certain you’ll get, “it was challenging” in the response. And it was challenging for all of us. But in our adaptations and reflections during this time, we still grew. We gained new skills and developed new standards about how we teach, how we learn, and how we relate to each other and to ourselves.
As I look ahead into the expanded daylight of the future, I have many goals and aspirations for our school. Many of them are reflected in our Anti-Racist Action Plan (that was first shared on the Summer Solstice of 2020). This summer we will expand on many of the goals articulated in that document by creating a new strategic plan for the school. It is my hope that in the coming years, the School of Drama will foster a diverse, cohesive community, and will stand out as a model for an equitable, sustainable, and humane theatre industry.
On behalf of the School of Drama, I thank each of you in our community of alumni, donors, audience members and community supporters. It’s so meaningful how you have supported us through this year, how you’ve shown up for online performances and events, and how you’ve engaged with us through your e-mails and social media. Although we haven’t been able to be together in person, you have remained present and invested in our school and our students, and I am grateful to you. I look forward to continuing our journey together.
Executive Director, School of Drama