Feature Story

Making Theatre History

October 1, 2018 – by Aleksei Pavloff ’18

Ares Harper ’19

Ares Harper ’19 Becomes Second OWU Student Ever to Direct a Main Season Play

For the first time in 42 years, and only the second time in Ohio Wesleyan University history, a student is directing one of the Theatre Department’s main season productions. Ares Harper ’19 of Columbus, Ohio, is directing “Cloud 9,” which runs Oct. 4-7.

“Bring yourself,” says Harper, a sociology and theatre double-major. “Come and be surprised.”

The first student to direct an OWU main season production was Bonnie Milne Gardner ’77. In fall 1976, Gardner directed Dale Wasserman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” After earning her doctorate, she joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty and taught for 31 years before retiring in 2016.

And the OWU connection between theatre majors Harper and Gardner runs even deeper. The last production that Gardner directed before she retired, “Artifice” by alumna Anne Flanagan ’87, featured then-freshman Harper as “Richard.”

In April 2016, Ohio Wesleyan theatre professor Bonnie Milne Gardner ’77 (left) directed her final play, ‘Artifice,’ before retiring. Ares Harper ’19 was a member of the cast. The playwright, OWU alumna Anne Flanagan ’87, joined the two as part of a talkback event following a performance. Today, Gardner and Harper are the only two OWU students ever to have directed a main season production. (Photo by Spenser Hickey ’15)

“He is very talented and dedicated,” Gardner says, noting that she believes he is ready to oversee the main season play because “directing requires maturity.”

Gardner already has reached out to Harper to congratulate him and express her excitement about what he will bring to the production.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Theatre & Dance performs three main plays and one dance concert every year. Because Harper is directing a play in the main season, he has more resources available including funding, faculty participation, and time to practice on the Main Stage in Chappelear Drama Center.

Harper says that in the fall of his junior year, he sent in a proposal to direct “Cloud 9” on the Main Stage for his senior project. Professor Ed Kahn has been advising Harper on the production process. Harper describes his help as having “another set of eyes.”

“Cloud 9” was written by Caryl Churchill in 1979 and touches on themes including colonialism and sexual repression. The play has two acts set 100 years apart. Despite the time difference, the characters age only 25 years between acts, causing them to experience what has been described as “intense cultural lag and fragmentation of self.”

“Cloud 9” will be performed on Oct. 4, 5, and 6 at 8 p.m. and on Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. in Chappelear Drama Center, 45 Rowland Ave., Delaware, on OWU’s campus. General admission tickets are $10 and $5 for senior citizens, Ohio Wesleyan employees, and non-OWU students. OWU students are admitted free with a valid OWU ID. To reserve tickets, call the Theatre Box Office at 740-368-3855.