Alumni Stars Shine in Annie Russell Theatre 75th Season

February 08, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

Front Row (left to right) - Fred Chappell (Class of 1964), Dana Ivey (Class of 1963), Rollins President Lewis Duncan, Rollins Student Actress Jessica Fornasier
Back Row - Rollins Student Actor Ryan Dowd Urch

As Rollins College’s Annie Russell Theatre celebrates its 75th anniversary, the College welcomes back two distinguished alumni to help honor the Theatre’s place in the history books.

Five-time Tony Award nominee Dana Ivey, who graduated from Rollins College in 1963 and has distinguished herself in New York theater for 30 years, has returned to Rollins to appear in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. The play, which will run February 15 through February 23, will be directed by Fred Chappell (Class of 1964), head of Florida State University’s MFA Directing Program. Both Chappell and Ivey will be in residence at Rollins as Thomas P. Johnson Distinguished Visiting Artists.

Dana Ivey

Five-time Tony Award nominee Dana Ivey (Class of 1963) will soon take the stage at Rollins. 
(Photo credit: Shevett Studios)

"Dana Ivey is one of Rollins’ most prominent theatre alumni," said Director of Theatre Thomas Ouellette. “Her residency provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance for our students to practice their craft alongside a bona-fide Broadway legend.” During her stay, Ivey will work with students in the Department of Theatre and Dance and portray Lady Bracknell in Wilde’s famous comedy of manners.

Ouellette continues, "I’ve been endeavoring to get Fred Chappell back to Rollins for years. He's eager to collaborate with Dana, and we will all benefit from their insight and expertise."

Ivey majored in theatre at Rollins and went on to study drama at the London Academy of Music and Art. A well-respected veteran of the New York stage, she received the Obie Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winningDriving Miss Daisy. She has appeared in many notable Broadway productions, receiving Tony Award nominations for Heartbreak House, Sunday in the Park with George, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Rivals and, just last season, Butley. Her television credits include Law & Order, Frasier, HBO’s Sex in the City, Oz and Homicide. She has appeared in numerous films, including, The Color Purple, Heartburn and Sleepless in Seattle. Ivey was inducted into the prestigious Theater Hall of Fame in January and will receive an honorary doctoral degree from Rollins in February.

Fred Chappell

Award-winning director Fred Chappell (Class of 1964) will direct Rollins production ofThe Importance of Being Earnest.

Chappell has more than 75 productions to his directing credit, including the original professional production ofCome Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean with Fannie Flagg. He has also appeared as an actor on Broadway. He is the former artistic director of the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and was artistic director of North Carolina's The Lost Colony for 12 years. He has directed regionally at such theaters as the Kennedy Center, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Seattle’s A.C.T. A recipient of the Governor's Honor Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts in Georgia and a member of Leadership Georgia, Chappell has served as a panelist and on-site observer for the Florida Council for the Arts. He is a member of Actors Equity and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

The Importance of Being Earnest was previously performed at the “Annie” in 1964 and 1986, making it the only play to be produced at Rollins three times. The Annie’s 75th season will conclude with the theatre’s first-ever improvised comedy, Murder We Wrote. Created and directed by improv artist and Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance David Charles, the performance will feature eight actors who create a story on the spot using long-form improv to perform a murder mystery. The show runs April 18-26.

Dedicated in 1932, the Annie Russell Theatre is home to the oldest theater program in Florida and one of the most prestigious theater programs in America. The 377-seat landmark, which was a gift of Mary Louise Bok named in honor of the stage actress who retired in Winter Park, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Importance of Being Earnest performance dates and times are listed below:

Friday, February 15 at 8 p.m. 
Saturday, February 16 at 8 p.m. 
Sunday, February 17 at 4 p.m. 
Wednesday, February 20 at 8 p.m. 
Thursday, February 21 at 8 p.m. 
Friday, February 22 at 8 p.m. 
Saturday, February 23 at 2 p.m. 
Saturday, February 23 at 8 p.m.

Visit for ticket information and more details.

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