Professor of the week: -nc -cd

Kayla Wilson

Studying mime under Marcel Marceau is a pretty big deal. Doing four intensive summer programs with him is even bigger. Theater fellow Annette Thornton had the privilege of doing so, some 20 years ago, fulfilling a long-standing dream. Thornton, now in her “third life” as a theater professor, came to her current profession the long way, but has packed in a good deal in a short time.
Thornton came to theater much later than would probably be expected. While in high school she auditioned for everything, from plays to cheerleading to rifle bearing, but never made anything except for a role as the hind end of the dog in “Two Gentleman of Verona.”
“We did some pretty elaborate choreography with this dog,” she joked. When she got to college, she started dancing and really loved it. With a degree in French secondary education, she taught at the high school level. Not surprisingly her students place rather well in the state French competition, especially in the skit portion.
Around this time she also began teaching dance, even opening her own studio. For her students’ recitals, she would take a story and develop it into a full-length spectacle.
“I’ve always had a strong theatrical storytelling impulse,” she said. Thornton also continued studying mime, but her past training with Marcel Marceau didn’t seem to be very helpful in Kansas.
“There were no other people doing mime in Kansas, and I started getting calls to do birthday parties. I just couldn’t think about that.”
She also began taking acting classes, going on to get her Master’s while her professors prodded her to continue acting. It turned out to be a good time to do so, as she was becoming increasingly burnt out with her dance studio. She then made the decision to get her PhD, a move that brought her to Lawrence in the fall of 2005.
Currently, Thornton is finishing editing two works by mime scholar Bari Rolfe, who died in 2002. One is a collection of writings she was working on at the time of her death, and the other, an updated mime bibliography. Thornton is also working to get her dissertation on Lotte Goslar published. Also on her plate is the direction of one of the opera scenes for later in the term.
In her spare time, she “likes to do all those normal boring things,” including spending time with her dog, an English setter named Nani. She also bikes, is certified in yoga and teaches a yoga class, loves gardening, cooking, movies and hula dancing.
When asked to name her favorite play, the answer was, of course, difficult. “This sounds like a really made up answer, but whatever one I’m working on at the moment, because I just get consumed,” she said. After some careful consideration, she conceded that Brigadoon and Wit, are two of her favorites.
Sadly, Thornton will be leaving Lawrence when this term ends, taking a position at Central Michigan University in the fall. There she will be in charge of the theater portion of the BFA for musical theater. “Of course, leaving is bittersweet. I will miss the students more than I can express,” she said.

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