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Advancement News

Award-Winning Alumni to Co-Chair Theatre Initiative

Posted Oct. 16, 2009

Acclaimed Kent State University alumni Jeff Richmond and Alice Ripley will serve as honorary chairs of an effort to name the School of Theatre and Dance’s new black box theatre after two professors who played major roles in the program’s growth.

The initiative will raise $250,000 to support the construction of a new state-of-the-art performing space in the Roe Green Center for the School of Theatre and Dance. The black box theatre will then be named for beloved professors William H. Zucchero and Louis O. Erdmann, whose service to the school, particularly during the 1970s and ‘80s, helped the program grow more than eight-fold. Two significant financial commitments from alumni already have been made toward the project.

Richmond, best known for his composing and producing work on NBC’s 30 Rock, and Ripley, an accomplished veteran of Broadway and regional theatre, will serve as co-hosts for a series of events to raise the additional funds needed to complete the space. Both alumni recently have received major acclaim for their work; Richmond was awarded a 2009 Emmy Award for his work on 30 Rock, while Ripley received a 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her lead role in Next to Normal.

“I was a freshman saxophone major when Kent State was launching its musical theatre program, and it only took a matter of days and a couple of music history classes to realize the coolest folks were really down the hall,” co-chair Richmond said. “And the coolest of the cool were the two gentlemen that ran that institution and ushered in a series of remarkable achievements: Lou Erdmann and Bill Zucchero. Lou Erdmann had an amazing gift of making you believe that whatever he was working on was going to be huge and you should be part of it. He was part Harold Hill, part P. T. Barnum and part Don Quixote. On the other hand, Bill Zucchero dealt in the tangible and the concrete – something you really needed in a world that taught professional pretend and make-believe.”

Richmond, along with his wife, actress and writer Tina Fey, are making the lead gift in support of the new space.

Drs. Erdmann and Zucchero impacted thousands of students during their decades of service to the university. Erdmann, a 1958 alumnus, received national recognition for his work at Kent State, where he was the producing director for the University Theatre, what is known today as the School of Theatre and Dance. He taught more than 40 courses and had a hand in more than 200 productions. In 1986, the university awarded him its prestigious President’s Medal.

“A genuine enthusiasm for a passionate life is what Lou Erdmann and his wife, Genie, sparked in me, and it has kept me going for the last 25 years as I’ve created the life of an integrated artist,” co-chair Ripley said. “They were the super-team of knowledge, passion, guts, wit and soul. By their example of love and laughter in and around the theatre, my soul was fueled for flight.”

Zucchero, a 1952 Kent State alumnus, directed or performed in more than 75 productions, guided 46 master’s degree students through thesis, and served as dissertation advisor to 12 doctoral candidates in his 30 years at the university. He was the school’s director or coordinator for more than a decade.

Together, the professors co-founded Porthouse Theatre, Kent State’s summer professional theatrical series, in 1969. Located on the grounds of Blossom Music Center, Porthouse has offered an incomparable outdoor setting for live theatre for 40 years.

Dr. Erdmann passed away in 1996; Dr. Zucchero passed away in 2002. The Louis Erdmann and William Zucchero Theatre will honor the two professors’ legacy at Kent State.

The Roe Green Center for the School of Theatre and Dance is currently under construction ahead of a fall 2010 opening. The space is made possible through a $6.5 million gift from alumna Roe Green, ’80. The contribution is the largest capital gift in the university’s history. In addition to the new black box theatre, the space will include new classrooms; acting, dance and design studios; lighting and computer labs; and enhanced production construction facilities.

“This project will mark the first time in Kent State’s history that theatre and dance will be united in the same facility,” said John Crawford, interim dean of the College of the Arts. “Now that all of the performing arts will be in one building on campus, we expect exciting synergy and collaborations to develop. The new Erdmann-Zucchero Theatre will give students a fantastic space in which to act, dance, direct and produce their work.”

The Roe Green Center is a signature project of Kent State’s Centennial Campaign, which is raising $250 million to support its endowment, capital projects and current operations. The campaign entered its public phase in September 2009.

To contribute to the effort, contact Shawn Gordon at 330-672-8484 or