Graceland Theatre Department's Guest Artist on Campus
Graceland University’s Theatre Department hosted Jody Hovland, a guest artist in-house for six weeks, who played the lead in the production of W;t, a 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning one-act play written by Margaret Edson. Directed by Graceland's Professor of Theatre Gary Heisserer, PhD, the play’s cast was an exciting mix of students, faculty and guest artist.
When Gary, Associate Professor of Theatre Tracy Salter and Assistant Professor of Theatre Seth Campbell set out last spring to select a season of productions, their goal was to represent a diverse selection of work they felt was best for the students and the community. There was no question W;t fit that criteria. Gary met actor and director Jody Hovland, co-founder and former Artistic Director of Iowa City’s professional company, Riverside Theatre, through an organization called the National New Play Network (NNPN), of which Jody is currently an Ambassador.
The two struck up an acquaintance and mutual respect for each other’s work over the years. Gary previously saw Jody present a staged reading at the Kennedy Center as part of an
“It has been an incredible experience working with Jody on the production. She has shown us that striving for the highest standards of artistic excellence can wonderfully co-exist with kindness, compassion and collegiality.”
MFA playwriting program and knew she would be extremely well-suited for the role. For Jody, it was an easy sell. She already had experience in the part of Dr. Vivian Bearing, Professor of 17th Century Poetry, when she played the character in a professional performance of the play put on by her own theatre company. However, this time around, she brings a whole different level of experiences to the role as a cancer survivor.
Dr. Vivian Bearing is learning to suffer. A patient undergoing treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer, she has become the subject of research for the oncologists and clinical fellows caring for her. Her prognosis grim, she finds kindness and compassion in her primary care nurse, Susie. Vivian relates in a combination of flashbacks and monologues to the audience about being an uncompromising scholar while a professor, then the shift to holding onto whatever dignity she has left in her plight against this unforgiving disease of which she so candidly shares. In true, witty form, Vivian gets the last laugh. W;t is chock-full of ironies around every turn and cleverly leaves its audience amused.
Gary worked with the cast practicing voice projection, line delivery and timing in rehearsals for the production. When asked about what specific benefits working with a guest artist brings to his students, he stated, “It has been an incredible experience working with Jody on the production. She has shown us that striving for the highest standards of artistic excellence can wonderfully co-exist with kindness, compassion and collegiality.”
After 34 years working alongside her husband and business partner, Ron Clark, and 30 years as a Distinguished Artist in-Residence at Cornell College, Jody and her husband have delved into freelancing and travel the country doing what they love: performing live theatre.