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Celebration of Faculty Research
and Creativity Honors Gray
October 11, 1999

For the third year the University community gathered for a Celebration of Faculty Research and Creativity. This annual event, held this year at Jorgensen Gallery, honors the many forms of intellectual and artistic endeavor to be found at the University.

President Philip E. Austin praised the scholarship and creativity that brings renown, grants and gifts to UConn. He said that he also appreciates the kind of creative work that sustains the day-to-day life of the University but receives no notice from the outside world: "I thank you for it."

The celebration October 6 honored the memory of Robert Gray, dean of the School of Fine Arts for eight years, who died suddenly in June. Austin said that there was "no better symbol for UConn as a center for creative enterprise" than Dean Gray, who was an active member of the University community and a visible presence on the local and state arts scene.

Gray was a member of the committee, chaired by Vice Provost Bob Smith, that organized the first celebration. The Benton Museum will have an exhibition of Gray's paintings opening on October 20.

The poster for the exhibition was one of many articles displayed during the celebration in evidence of outstanding faculty work. Another, a new way of commemorating the talent at the University, is the Connecticalendar, a full-color calendar that features for each month the work of a faculty member. It has been sent to every member of the University staff and there are plans for it to be sold to the public, according to Smith. He also announced that a website is being developed that will be devoted to faculty activities.

Gary English, professor of dramatic arts and interim dean of the School of Fine Arts, gave the address during this year's celebration. English is both a set designer and a director of numerous productions at UConn and in the professional theater.

He described the different ways in which art, music, and theater lend themselves to interpretation. Of the three, English said, the theater - the only one dependent on language - is the most open to re-interpretations that reflect changes in the times and the cultural climate. It is also, he said, the most collaborative of the arts.

English went on to outline the interactive process by which the playwright, director, and actors create a production. Taking three specific plays as examples, he described how they came to life in three specific productions and the many aspects of interpretation that each presented.

As an example of a classic by a now-dead playwright, he described the production by Chicago's Goodman Theatre of Shakespeare's "As You Like It," set in the American West just after the Civil War. The famous Seven Ages of Man speech was movingly delivered by a former soldier mourning the loss of an arm and the loss of comrades in the field.

"Death of a Salesman" is a famous play by a living playwright, who is very much involved with productions of his works. It is a "star" vehicle for the actor playing Willie Loman and the world it depicts is one that is familiar to contemporary audiences.

"Featherless Angels" is a work in progress by Migdalia Cruz, last year's playwright-in-residence in the School of Fine Arts, in which she strives to present the life she has known in the South Bronx. Cruz called upon the director and a workshop held at UConn last year to help shape the play's final form.

English's vision for a University-based theater includes "revisiting the classics constantly" and "pursuing the creation and development of new works." In what could be a motto for each year's celebration of faculty creativity, he said, "we make a new work of art from scratch every day in every discipline."