Coffee with Lawrence Fellow Annette Thornton

Bonnie Alger

Having moved to Kansas as a high school student, theatre arts fellow Annette Thornton stayed in-state for her first two pursuits in higher education, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University. She then began her career as a high school French teacher, while simultaneously running a dance studio of 200 students. The studio offered classes in various styles of dance, and helped supplement Thornton’s schoolteaching job. “I’ve always taught,” she says.
It wasn’t until college that Thornton started her study of dance. She became particularly interested in mime, and had the good fortune of studying with famed French mime Marcel Marceau, over the course of four summers. “Mime is about expanding and shrinking time,” says Thornton. “The temporal element is fascinating!”
She was accepted to the University of Colorado in Boulder for doctoral study. “I loved theater, and tried twice to apply for an MFA in acting, but wasn’t accepted,” says Thornton. “That’s when I realized that’s not my calling. My calling is to teach.” Thornton became involved in a program combining theater theory and performance, which she describes as “a great fit.” “I like to think, ‘How does theory affect what we do on stage?'”
It was Thornton’s connection to Lawrence professor Kathy Privatt that helped her land the fellowship here. “Three years ago, at CU, I had a colleague who had met Kathy Privatt at a conference,” she says. “Kathy had e-mailed them to ask if they were returning to the conference. My colleague said no, and introduced me to Kathy via e-mail.” The two decided to room together at the conference and got very well. “We had found a colleague for life; we knew we’d stay connected.”
When the Lawrence Fellows program was approved, Privatt suggested that Thornton apply for the position. “There are very few postdoctoral positions in the arts in the United States,” says Thornton. “It’s really exciting having a woman president, and someone who’s a kindred spirit.”
Thornton is currently teaching Freshman Studies, which she is enjoying. “It’s allowing me to meet a lot of faculty,” she says. During winter term, she will be co-teaching Acting I and choreographing the conservatory opera, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” In the spring, she will be co-teaching American Musical Theater with Kathy Privatt.
What’s in store for Thornton after Lawrence? “I do see myself being at a place like Lawrence, a small liberal arts college,” she says. “It’s difficult to imagine not teaching. I also want to help other people become better teachers.” Thornton also has made it a goal to publish her dissertation, a study on German dance mime performer Lotte Goslar. “I’m really interested in telling stories, and am committed to telling women’s stories,” she says.
What else would she like the Lawrence community to know about her? “I do Hawaiian hula,” she says. And, like many of the other dellows, she owns a dog. “Her name is Nani, which is Hawaiian for ‘beautiful.’ She’s five-and-a-half, and so sweet!” Thornton smiles.

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