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She's Not Only Executive VP at NKU, Rowlands Will Appear in One Woman Show

“I heard the voice of Jesus 
slow, 
impossibly slow, 
like the blood flowing
in the vessels of the snake, 
from its heart all the way to the moon."
 
Sue Ott Rowlands, Provost and Executive Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Northern Kentucky University, headlines The Play’s the Thing at 6 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati, part of NKU’s [email protected] Lecture Series.  
 
Rowlands had a long career in theater – acting, directing, founding (including the Cleveland Women’s Theatre Project), managing and teaching – before her career turned to university administration. She’ll lift the curtain on that aspect of her life with a presentation centered on Mud Nostalgia, a solo play she has performed around the world. 
 
The excerpt above should tell you what it’s about – the serpent-handling ritual that began in Appalachia and is practiced in some Pentecostal churches. 
 
Rowlands will step in and out of character to talk about how the play was created and nurtured, and about the power of the theater to raise awareness of social issues.
 
Rowlands collaborated with playwright Mark Evans Bryan on the script when they were both at Ohio State University. He was a grad student, she was Head of the Acting and Directing Program in the Department of Theatre. (She also taught favorite Cincinnati Shakespeare actors Jeremy Dubin and Giles Davies.)
 
Rowlands’ character is a woman struggling to understand love and faith, even as she is betrayed by both.  
 
Mud Nostalgia will have a full production at NKU March 26-28, but don’t expect to see Rowlands on stage again any time soon, even though Rowlands and Bryan have another collaboration, fig. 1.
 
Also, a solo play (inspired by Anton Chekhov’s “The Kiss”,) it considers desire and the changes that come with a woman’s aging body, Rowlands laughs that her “plate is full” with her current job.
 
An “overflowing” plate might be more accurate -- Rowlands joined NKU in January 2014 within the year plans were moving forward to bring together the university’s arts programs into a School of the Arts, which debuts in the 2015-16 academic year. 
 
“We feel that the opportunities provided by the new school include increasing collaboration between arts disciplines (theatre, dance, music, and visual arts), increasing opportunity for joint and cross marketing, synergies around guest artists and residencies, and new academic transdisciplinary arts programs. And, of course, raising the visibility of our outstanding arts programs from a collection of academic departments to the status of a School of the Arts.”
 
Stay tuned.
 
So no fig. 1 at NKU? 
 
Rowlands acknowledges, “I’d love to do it here.” Her character in fig. 1 is a geologist (her work is studying “the building and eroding of mountains,” Rowlands muses) and, “it plays very well with academic audiences.” 
 
The Play’s the Thing, 6 p.m. Feb. 11. Mercantile Library 414 Walnut St., Downtown. Admission $6, available through the Scripps Howard Center: 859-572-1448 and here
 
For more information about [email protected], visit NKU’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement here
 
Mud Nostalgia, Stauss Studio Theater, 8 p.m. March 26-28, Fine Arts Center, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights. Tickets $10.  859-572-5464 and here.
 
Playwright Mark Evans Bryan and director Bruce Hermann will join Rowlands for post-performance discussions.
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
 
Photo: Sue Ott Rowlands (provided)