Alumni have begun a drive to raise $100,000 to name a new theater on campus for the legendary drama professor who was the first female tenure-track professor at Kenyon.
Harlene Marley H’05 died in February, just a few weeks after the new Black Box Theater opened on the northern end of campus. The hope is to dedicate the building to her as part of a series of events this summer celebrating Marley’s influence on generations of Kenyon students.
Associate Vice President for Alumni and Parent Engagement Scott Baker ’94 is helping organize the celebration of her life. He appeared in a Reunion Weekend performance that was Marley’s last production at Kenyon in 2005.
“Professor Marley wasn't just a singular person in Kenyon’s drama department but in Kenyon history,” he said. “I am heartened to have the opportunity to celebrate her contributions to both Kenyon and the theater with Kenyon alumni and other friends who knew her well. Professor Marley was, quite simply, a legend — and I am so thankful to have known and studied with her.”
Donations to support the effort to honor Marley can be made here. Tributes to her can also be submitted online, and they will be gathered for inclusion at the celebration of Marley’s legacy and made available online.
Marley was born in Oklahoma in 1940, received a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma City University and a master of fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She came to Kenyon in the fall of 1969 with the College’s first class of female students. Marley was the first woman hired into a tenure-track position at Kenyon, and she earned promotion to full professor in 1987.
Marley became a legendary Kenyon professor — and performer, with a memorable turn as Martha in a campus production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” She developed an impressive list of acting and directing credits, on campus and off. For her work with the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, organizers presented her with its National Distinguished Service Award.
Also known for her administrative skills, Marley was often called upon for tasks far removed from the drama classroom. She served as interim director of Kenyon’s libraries in the 1987-88 academic year.
Kenyon’s new Black Box Theater is larger and has better access than the theater’s previous location on Chase Avenue, which was removed last summer. There is no raised stage, but risers can frame three sides of the performance space to accommodate about 75 people. The new Black Box also has a storage room, a prep room for actors awaiting their time to perform, and bathrooms, which the old building did not have.
Each semester, the Black Box Theater usually hosts three or four student productions and serves as a lab for drama classes such as “The Lighting Designer” and “The Actor.” Last fall, students used Weaver Cottage for rehearsal and performance space as they waited for completion of the new Black Box.
The celebration of Marley’s life will occur over two weekends this summer.
On Saturday, May 27, at 2 p.m., the President’s Office will host a reception to honor Marley in the garden near the Hill Theater. This event is open to the public, and no registration is required.
On Saturday, June 10, a series of events will honor Marley. Registration for these events is available here.