Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gloria Baxter performs in "Wit"; Margaret Edson visits the U of M

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM

It's been a long time since Gloria Baxter has performed on stage. In the early 90's she collaborated with choreographer Susan Chriezberg in a 15-minute piece for the U of M's dance department, but other than that she hasn't acted since 1973 when she took part in Ken Zimmerman's production of The Serpent at Circuit Playhouse.

"That's about the totality of my on stage time as a performer rather than as a Director," She says. Now the influential teacher, director, and narrative theater pioneer is acting again in Margret Edson's W;t, which closes this weekend at the University of Memphis.

The instinct that this was just the right time, just the right play seemed to be based on two things:

Baxter's undergraduate mentor, Lea Queener, recently celebrated her 86th Birthday. Professor Ashford—the character Baxter plays—brought to mind for me how influential Queener's Interpretation of Poetry class became in the direction her career took


"One of the poets we studied there was John Donne. I wrote an essay in that class on Donne's poem, "A Lecture Upon the Shadow," which Lea submitted to the then University quarterly literary magazine, and it was published there. At age 20, I was so very proud and honored that Lea gave her much valued "stamp of approval" to my first "publication." When I read Professor Ashford's first scene with the main character, Vivian Bearing , and saw that Vivian was in her early 20's when she presented an essay on Donne to her mentor, Professor Ashford—So much memory and gratitude came back to me in regard to Lea and her influence in the direction of my life. "

In the program for W;T —along with her bio , Baxter added this note:

Gloria would like to dedicate her performance as Professo Ashford to her mentor

and friend, Dr. Lea Queener. My undergraduate courses with Lea were my initial introduction to rigorous study and difficult texts (including the metaphysical poetry of John Donne!) and engendered in me a life long love of great literature and the spoken word. Thank you, Lea, for your unforgettable classes even after oh these many years and the depth of your caring as a teacher. You were and are a continuing inspiration in my life.

More on the timing:

"I began teaching at then Memphis State University , now University of Memphis, in the Fall of 1965. This Spring Semester 2012 will be my last time to teach courses there. I formally retired from my full time faculty position beginning in Spring 2009 —but have been on a post-retirement contract that allowed me to teach two courses a year in the Department. This Spring I will be teaching for the last time a graduate
Margaret Edson
  • Margaret Edson
seminar course in Analysis of Dramatic Literature and in Directing Narrative Theatre."

W;t is a Pulitzer Prize-winning memory play about the death of an English professor in the last stages of metastatic ovarian cancer. Playwright Margaret Edson will visit the University of Memphis Campus on Friday, November 11. She will present a free lecture, “The Map of Speech: Orality, Literacy, and Writing for Performance.” The lecture will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Fogelman Executive Conference Center, Room 136.

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