Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Toast to Dr. Coleman Jennings

The current University of Texas at Austin MFA in students wrote this toast to honor the retirement of Dr. Jennings and delivered it at a reception at AATE this summer in D.C.

The many endearments of Dr. Jennings

Dr. Jennings

Dr. J



CJ is my DJ

Coleman… I mean Dr. Jennings…. I mean Dr. Coleman A. Jennings

My favorite Dr. J moment was…

My first day of graduate school, when Dr. Jennings marched us out of our stuffy conference room to sit in a circle on the hallway floor and play with beautiful trash and a parachute–which he made us chase after him down the hallway to get!

When he taught us his stage tricks- my favorite is how to disappear offstage by using the blue fabric water method.

Receiving an envelope with my name on it, and opening it to find a list of Thesis titles with mine highlighted.  I’ll never forget the pride I saw in his face.
Dr. Jennings’ humble, unassuming attitude about the treasure trove that is his office. From the original letters from Winifred Ward to his Nellie McCaslin collection, I think his favorite thing is seeing US freak out about these special items.

Dr. Jennings explaining how they get the dog in Annie to lick her face with peanut butter followed by the sentence, “I mean if I was hungry I might lick her face too!” and immediate embarrassment at realizing what he said.
Sitting with him in his office during the summer of 2012, thoughtfully and meticulously editing the manuscript, word by word.

When he saw the shirts with his face on them. His eyes lit up and then he told us it was as great an honor as receiving the Orlin Corey Medallion.

DJ Shirts

When he disagrees with something or wants to give his opinion on something, and instead he hum’s.  That’s my favorite.

The compassion that he extended when he went out of his way to bring Chas, the blind emcee from the  documentary “the eyes of me”  to speak in the undergrad TYA class.

My favorite thing in a Dr J file is…

Dozens of photocopies of newspaper articles, photographs and reviews, tracking his students’ successes all over the United States and Abroad!
Winifred Ward Go Adventuring! The actual book… which Dr. Jennings must have had like 4 boxes of to still be handing out copies!, Or the thesis database handed to you in a yellow envelope with your name and thesis title highlighted after your thesis defense.

When Ben and I spent an entire summer going through the files, there were tons of photos from decades of work. We also found several photos of him, including a pretty fabulous one featuring a mustache I think…

I love receiving something from Dr. Jennings’ files. There’s no way to predict what he will share with you. My favorite? After a tough day, I opened an official departmental office mail envelope to find large photographs of penguins. Thanks Dr. J!

Camp! Not summer camp.

During an activity led by Dr. J, we had the opportunity to go through his massive file of photos from Life magazine and I found a picture of Wilt Chamberlain in his Lakers uniform. When I asked D. J if I could have the picture, he did his infamous hum. But as I proceeded to show him the Lakers jersey I had on, he promptly said, “well then you MUST have it!”

Dr. J has inspired in me…

A passion to uphold a deep respect for young audiences through plays rich in artistic integrity which tackle relevant issues and challenge young people and adults to see beyond themselves and into a world of possibility.

To never forget the fun and play in creating theatre with young people. To be inspired by everything I see, hear, and experience.

A deep appreciation for the history of theatre for young audiences and theatre education and how this history shapes us as artists, educators and scholars. Also the importance of documenting our practice and art-making. Save newspaper clippings, photos and letters. It’s all history in the making!

To stay youthful in mind, body, and spirit.

The reminder of what it means to be a teacher, a mentor, and a learner all in one. He brings so much joy to his work and inspires me to do the same.

A new understanding of what it means to be a pioneer, to truly connect to the people around you, to find joy in the simple things, to appreciate the history and hard work of those who came before you. Above all Dr. Jennings has inspired in me a renewed belief you can change the world by being both a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher.

To look at the world through the eyes of a child. To see wonder everywhere and in everything.

A love for the literature of theatre for young audiences

A commitment to young people, art, his students, and the field, rather than accolades. Dr. Jennings is incredibly humble, and I am so inspired to see how many people his life and work have had such a large impact on. There’s no hiding anymore Dr. Jennings! We all love you!

To strive to fill the world with meaningful work for young people and to always be willing to sit on the floor and play.

The absolute necessity to treat everyone with kindness, dignity, and respect at all times.

The toast was written by Bethany Lynn Corey, Lara Dossett, Emily Freeman, Meg Greene, Ben Hardin, Lindsay Hearn, Noah Martin, Sidney Monroe, Megan Nevels, Meredyth Pederson, Elizabeth Schildkret, Spring Snyder and Emily Thomas

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