Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Arnie Johnston honored for 42 years of service

At yesterday's Arniefest, current and former students, faculty, and staff celebrated the impressive 42 years of distinguished service Arnie Johnston has given to Western as faculty member and chair. Guests included President Dunn, Graduate Dean Pyenson, Vice Provost for Academic Operations and Chief Information Officer Jim Gilchrist, former Theater chair Terry D. Williams, Spanish Chair Mercedes Tasende, former Director of Collective Bargaining and Chair of Mathematics and Statistics Jay Wood, and many more. At the ceremony, Dr. Steve Feffer announced the establishing of a Playwriting Award, the "Arnie," which will recognize excellent undergraduate and graduate work in Playwriting every year. For more information on the "Arnie," contact - William Arnold (Arnie) Johnston has been a member of WMU’s Department of English since 1966, chiefly teaching courses in creative writing (playwriting, fiction, and poetry), modern literature, and development of the novel. He served as chairman of the department at Western Michigan University (1997-2007). Over more than four decades, his extensive service to the department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the university includes being co-founder and coordinator of the creative writing program, serving as Director of Graduate Studies, and membership on almost every significant departmental committee, often as chair, and many college and university committees, both standing and ad hoc. He also takes pride in his long membership in the WMU chapter of the AAUP, and his stints on four faculty bargaining teams (three as chief negotiator), including the team that successfully negotiated the first contract between the chapter and Western.
Arnie’s plays, and others written in collaboration with his wife, Deborah Ann Percy, have won awards, production, and publication across the country. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared widely in literary journals. His books include a collection of poetry, What the Earth Taught Us (March Street Press, 1996), The Witching Voice: A Play About Robert Burns (WMU Press, 1973), and Of Earth and Darkness: The Novels of William Golding (University of Missouri, 1980). Arnie’s The Witching Voice: A Novel About Robert Burns was published in 2009—for the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth—by Wings Press (San Antonio). Arnie and Debby’s translations (in collaboration with Dona Roşu) of two long one-acts—Night of the Passions and Sons of Cain—by Romanian playwright Hristache Popescu were published in Bucharest (1999) by Editura HP, as was an English-Romanian edition of his and Percy’s full-length play Rasputin in New York (with Romanian translation by Dona Roşu and Luciana Costea). Rasputin was also produced to critical acclaim in 1999 by the Whole Art Theatre at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Lake Auditorium and by Love Creek Productions at New York City’s Theatre Row Studios. Another Johnston-Percy- Roşu translation of a Popescu play, Epilogue, will appear in 2009 from Editura HP. Their edited anthology entitled The Art of the One-Act appeared in 2007 from New Issues Poetry and Prose. Arnie and Debby’s full-length play Traveling to Tulum won high critical praise when premiered by API in March-April 2000 at Kalamazoo’s Epic Center. Since 2001 ten of their radio dramas have been broadcast on WMUK-FM as part of the Kalamazoo Arts Council’s All Ears Theatre series. In 2004 their full-length play Small Slam, part of a “Detroit trilogy” that includes Beyond Sex (due for publication by Editura HP in 2009 in both Romanian and English) and the award-winning The Zamboni Situation, received a New York staging by Developing Act Theatre Company; Slam also received a reading in 2008 at NYC’s Workshop Theatre. Their most recent stage projects are a full-length translation/ adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker and a historical drama, Out in the Forty-Five, about Scotland’s Jacobite Rebellion, and a comedy-drama, The Wedding Play. Arnie is an experienced actor-singer, having performed nearly 100 roles on stage and radio, as well as many concerts, and he will now be able to give more time to those pursuits. On his 1997 compact disc recording Jacques Brel: I’m Here! (Western Michigan University) he performs his own translations of songs by the noted Belgian singer-songwriter. Four revues featuring his Brel translations have been staged in New York, as well as others in Chicago (recognized by four Jefferson Award nominations) and Kalamazoo. A recipient in 1986 of Kalamazoo’s Community Medal of Arts, Arnie is currently a member of the Dramatists Guild and an Associate Artist with Chicago’s Theo Ubique Theatre Company; he has also been a resident playwright with both the Off-Off Broadway theatre company AAI Productions and Kalamazoo’s Actors and Playwrights Initiative (API).

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