Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of Theatre Lesley Ferris has announced that she will retire in December 2019.
Ferris came to Ohio State in January 1998, hired away from Louisiana State University to serve as department chair. She served as chair from 1998 – 2005 and as interim chair from 2014 – 2016. Under her leadership, the department emphasized a focus on new works, established a laboratory space in Drake Performance and Event Center for experimentation, and drew renowned guest artists including, Anne Bogart, Woodie King, Jr., Tony Kushner, Marcel Marceau, and Tim Miller.
International collaboration and study became a key element of our program, as Ferris brought in guest artists such as Jaroslav Malina and Caridad Svich who taught students and created works at Ohio State. Ferris set the stage for international study when she established the London Theatre Program. The department later added programs in Cuban performance and Czech theatre and culture under her administration.
The department has received numerous awards and recognitions while Ferris served as chair, including the Departmental Teaching Award, the Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award, and an Award for Excellence in Community Service Programming for the department’s school tour. The school tour, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is an outreach program that Ferris established. It has brought live theatre to nearly a quarter of a million Franklin county elementary, middle, and high school students.
Collaboration is central to her artistic philosophy. While at Ohio State, Ferris developed partnerships with Ohio State departments such as dance, history, and political science, with the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Outside of the university, Ferris has built connections with local groups such as The King Arts Complex, TransitArts, and the Short North Stage, as well as international connections with the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa. Through these partnerships and other advocacy, Ferris has secured nearly a million dollars to support department activities.
In 2008, the College of the Arts opened a new gallery space downtown, the Urban Arts Space, with an exhibition of Midnight Robbers: The Artists of Notting Hill Carnival, which Ferris co-curated.
While at Ohio State, Ferris has published three books (with a fourth forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press) and thirty articles. She delivered fifty-nine papers at conferences around the country and world. She has written extensively on women in theatre, especially women playwrights. She has mentored twenty-one doctoral students through their dissertation, including six presidential fellows, the university’s most prestigious graduate fellowship.
Ferris founded Palindrome Productions, a theatre company based in London, in 2014. Its first production, The First Actress, was produced here at Ohio State with department students, half of whom participated in the London Theatre Program that summer. There, Ferris remounted the production, casting English actors to round out the cast.
Ferris has directed eighteen productions at Ohio State, and an additional ten productions outside the university while working at Ohio State. Highlights of her directing career in our department include Angels in America: Perestroika, St. Joan of the Stockyards, Sleep Deprivation Chamber, The Camouflage Project, and Forbidden Zones: The Great War, the last three of which integrated media with live performance.
Friends, family, colleagues, students, and alumni—save the date: Monday, December 2, 5:00-7:00pm. The department will hold a reception in her honor to celebrate her career at Ohio State.