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reed magazine logoSeptember 2010

The Last Lectures

We salute three retiring (and not so retiring) instructors.

 

Bonnie Garrettdirector, private music program, 1988.

To step into Prexy, with its elegant practice rooms, secret passageways, and marvelous instruments, is to enter Bonnie Garrett’s realm—a realm where music reverberates not just through the halls but throughout students’ lives. Reed’s private music program has undergone considerable growth since Bonnie first began teaching piano and harpsichord in the late ’70s: the number of students has doubled (last year topping 140) and range has expanded to include everything from sitar to guzheng, a Chinese harp.

Bonnie Garrett

At the same time, the essentials have changed very little. “We get many students who have never had formal instruction, who just make incredible progress because they concentrate and work hard,” she says. “Sometimes they have their heart set on tackling an ambitious piece that I would never set them as an instructor, yet they often amaze me with what they can accomplish.”

Reed students are generally drawn to pieces from the romantic period, pieces in minor keys, and Bach, Bonnie says, especially preludes and fugues.

“I had the opportunity to interact with Bonnie in her capacity as a piano and early keyboard instrument teacher, as private music director, and, less formally, as a mentor and confidant,” says Moira Gresham ’04. “As a teacher, Bonnie inspired me to study and play Bach. She also taught me how to play instruments like the harpsichord and organ. (For example, due to the lack of direct volume control in keyboard instruments with no hammer action, as a musician you must use timing to add dynamics to a piece.) . . . Bonnie made Prexy a welcoming place of retreat on campus. I worked very hard at Reed; I think I was able to keep up a high level of intellectual intensity at Reed in part because of the balance provided by my escapades at Prexy. I think this was the case for a lot of Reedies. On a more personal level, I remember having many healthy conversations with Bonnie about performance, academics, time management, family—all kinds of things; she was an extremely positive figure during my time at Reed.”

At her final Friday at Four concert, Bonnie says, “My harpsichord lid bears a Latin inscription, that translated says ‘Music is a companion to joy, medicine in sorrow.’ It has been a reassuring motto in the low times that we all experience, but also accompanies the joyous aspects of my daily life as I listen to Reed students engage in music making. According to the Greek writer Aristoxenus, ‘rhythm’ is an activity, a verb. In ‘rhythming’ something, one gives it organization, shape, form, and a distinctive life. I witness this when I walk into Prexy, the chapel, or Kaul and hear the ‘rhythming’ of instrument and voice, the bringing of inanimate objects to life. This is indeed my joy.”

In retirement, Bonnie looks forward to playing more often; she plans on recording some Bach sonatas for harpsichord and viola da gamba, to do some painting, to spend time with her grandson, and to teach one day a week.

—Chris Lydgate

Craig Clintontheatre, 1978.

Craig has brought the theatre department a long way during his 32 years at Reed, but some things have remained the same. When he came to interview for the job, no one on the search committee could figure out how to turn the lights on in the theatre. This is still a mystery, and learning their operation remains a rite of passage. Fortunately, Craig’s interview was in 1978, when many people smoked, so he was shown the theatre by match light.

Craig Clinton

For many years, Craig was essentially a one-man theatre department, teaching classes, directing productions, and advising senior theses. He inspired an incredible number of people to found theatre companies, become managing directors and artistic associates of major companies, and to teach at prestigious colleges and at public schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Craig himself has made contributions to scholarship, not only through his teaching but also through his research and writing (including biographies of Mrs. Leslie Carter and Cora Urquhart Potter).

Craig is also famous for his dry wit and understated quirkiness, revealed in this story from a theatre history class. “We were all required to perform different scenes and, under popular pressure, Craig agreed to do one as well, playing Sir Peter Teazle in School for Scandal. Before the class, however, he’d gone around the room and hidden many slips of paper with his lines on them in all these nooks and crannies, so that all of his ‘blocking’ consisted of drifting to the next spot to get the next piece of paper and say his line. The last line of the scene, of course, was taped to the bottom of his shoe, which he pulled off and read with great élan.”

I think Craig’s firm belief in the vital connection between theory and practice, research and production, and his respect for all elements of production—and for all his students—played no small role in the department’s success in producing so many active theatre professionals. He really worked to foster a community of collaboration, which is what the magic of theatre is all about.

I will close with a story from the first time Craig directed The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Erin Merritt ’89 (founder of the all-female San Francisco Shakespeare troupe Woman’s Will) hoped to play Bette, as did her friend Anne Washburn ’91 (recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in playwriting), but they were also both being considered for the smaller role of Joan. In high school, Erin wrote, she had watched people read small roles badly and large roles well, while she read everything as well as she could and, perhaps therefore, often ended up in smaller roles.

“When the inevitable happened,” she wrote,” and [Craig] cast [Anne] as Bette and me as Joan, he called me into his office and talked to me in kinder terms than I knew possible, letting me know that he knew it was hard for me, and that I had read just as well. This time he took on my behalf made more difference than I can ever explain and truly helped me get over my disappointment and enjoy the role I did have. It also made me more resilient in the real world of theatre, since I saw through his eyes the way a cast comes together from different flavors like a recipe; that one is not cast because one is ‘best’ or ‘most deserving’ or any other obvious thing, because there are so many people that are good, even great at a role. As I moved into directing, I have thought of his conversation with me many, many times as I have passed over the best actor for a lesser actor who is just the right flavor for a role, or the actor who has worked hardest for someone who just personified a role. I have tried to spread the kindness by letting these actors know they deserved better and that I would be watching out for ways to cast them in the future. Craig made me a better person and a more caring director through this little moment of his time and great kindness of his heart. And Anne and I are still friends.”

So we thank you, Craig, for fostering a community of creative, productive theatrical friends. You have made a tremendous difference in many people’s lives. And someday you’ll come for a visit and there will be a new performing arts building—and someone will have to show you how to turn on the lights.

—Kathleen Worley

reed magazine logoSeptember 2010