22 December 2009

So hallow’d and so gracious is the time

. . . as ’twere with a defeated joy,—
With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole . . . .

Interrupting this festive season, comes word that “Annetta Gomez-Jefferson, a member of the faculty at The College of Wooster from 1974 until her retirement in 1995, died at her home in Wooster on Dec. 16.”

While I was at Wooster, Annetta was chairman of the Theatre Department (I can still hear her gravelly voice advising someone, “Don’t call me a chairwoman, and for God’s sake don’t call me a chair, either”). I was in the Music Department, and the occasion for our paths crossing was (predictably) an inter-departmental project, an ad hoc production of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat (a modest affair which did not use the entire ensemble, instead employing the trio arrangement of the Suite). By chance I stumbled on a small group of people preparing to audition for the spoken roles, and on a whim I auditioned, myself. I was appointed to the title role.

Annetta remembered this little stage business a couple of years later when she was planning a Wooster production of Amadeus, and she felt that she wanted a musician to play the role of Salieri. As there would necessarily be dissatisfaction among the students actually majoring in Theatre, at someone outside the department being cast for so juicy a role, Annetta had a directing student of hers ‘groom’ me for the audition. I should never have made anything out of the role without Annetta’s patience, her active assistance, and her belief in what little stage talent I managed to evince.

I have too little to say of Annetta, apart from my gratitude for the short, sharp impact her warmth and professionalism had upon me at a formative stage. I know there are many students who worked with her longer-term, whose benefit from working with Annetta must have been several orders higher.

Also while I was at Wooster, Annetta produced Hamlet, not absolutely complete, but with fewer cuts than many another director might have opted for; and in full keeping with Wooster’s place as my alma mater, it was the first live production I had ever seen.

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Annetta.


Cato said...

Sorry to hear about your teacher, Karl!

But now we turn to astonishment!

YOU played Salieri?!

So how many curtain calls and standing ovations did you receive?

Anonymous said...

Very nice that you remembered her Karl with reflections I am sure she would have appreciated and even chuckled at.

~Bill (Bogey)

Karl Henning said...

Thanks, Bill!

Cato, I am going to see if I can find the clipping from the local paper which reviewed the production . . . .