February 22, 2008
The Importance of Being Earnestopened at the Annie Russell Theatre Friday, Feb.15, to a sold-out crowd and ended with a standing ovation. Following Sunday’s matinee, Rollins alums and Thomas P. Johnson Distinguished Visiting Artists Dana Ivey (Class of 1963), who plays Lady Bracknell and Fred Chappell (Class of 1964) engaged in an on-stage Q&A session. Associate Professor of Theatre Jennifer Cavenaugh hosted the event during which more than 60 Rollins graduates and members of the community had the opportunity to ask the pair questions.
The duo recounted stories of their days at Rollins and talked about how enjoyable it is to be back. When asked what other fun things they have done during their return to Rollins, they both immediately responded “Beans!” They also really enjoyed a recent visit to the Rollins Archives. “Just being back in this atmosphere and in this theater is special,” said Chappell. “I had so many wonderful memories here. Venues I have worked in were always downhill from starting here.” Ivey shared, “The Annie Russell Theatre is the perfect size for a theater, and for an audience to come together for a show.”
Ivey and Chappell met during Ivey's first week in school at Rollins. About their first meeting, he shared, “I heard someone reading and it was her. She was astounding and was as good then as she is now.” The two have remained very close friends for more than 40 years.
Rollins Graduate and Actress Dana Ivey with Winter Park Mayor David Strong
During a special ceremony held in the Annie Russell Theatre, Rollins College honored Dana Ivey (Class of 1963) with an honorary doctorate. “Today we honor one of Rollins’ own. It’s a privilege to conduct this ceremony in Dana’s home in the Annie Russell Theatre during its 75th anniversary,” said Rollins College President Lewis Duncan.
Rollins College Director of Theatre Thomas Ouellette said, “Dana first appeared on this stage in 1959 in a small role in Guys and Dolls. Many Annie shows followed and she did everything here from sewing costumes to building sets and even sweeping the stage.”
Ivey has been back at Rollins for the past month to appear in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Annie. She worked with Rollins students and also served as the vocal and dialect coach for the play. “She really rolled up her sleeves here to work with our students on many levels,” said Ouellette. “She was the first to arrive at rehearsal and the last to leave.”
During President Duncan’s reading of the citation for the Doctor of Humane Letters degree that was presented to Ivey, he shared, “The pursuit of high purpose demands courage, fortitude, and faith in oneself. You are one of the few who have achieved your childhood dream. We are gratified that your Rollins education helped lay the foundation on which you have built your craft as an actor, fueling the joy of discovery that informs your art.”
Following the presentation, Ivey received a standing ovation. She then shared, “I am a strong believer in a liberal arts education. I believe it prepares anyone for a better life.” She concluded with “I’m extremely grateful to the school that prepared me for my future. This is a day I will never forget and an honor I will always cherish.”
Winter Park Mayor David Strong also presented Ivey with a key to the city. It is the first one that he has presented.