I'm at Barry College and I'm sitting this morning with Marilyn Laudadio.
Neill Miller: Good morning and how are things in the theater of Fine Arts department at Barry College as a faculty member? She was formerly a student at Barry College, but Marilyn, why don't you tell us about who you are and the dates that you were associated with the college prior to your being a faculty member?
Marilyn: This is a story I love to tell anyway. It seems that when was somewhere around 11 or 12 years old when mother decided to haul me up to Barry college for a junior theater audition. Sister Marie Carol Hurley was one of the most noted theater practitioners and educators in Miami walked into this room filled with kids. I was very shaky when I went to the stage with my poem about George Washington.
Neill Miller: How old were you?
Marilyn: I think I was about eleven. Two weeks later, there were all these kids in the room with Sister Marie and Sister Carol. I still have today the little scrapbook, but I had been chosen as one of the students to attend at one of the summers children's programs. I played in the Pied Piper, and I played the witch in Rackety Packety House. But, I also did some stage work and this was my thing. At that time, you see the canteen was part of the, let’s see, the graphics lab now, we used to have our ice cream out there and we used to work outside in the empty theater. There were tons of people working to get their theater degrees at this time, so we used to do little odds and end scenes with different theater majors that year at the time.
Neill Miller: During the summer?
Marilyn: During the summer, yes. I was quite involved in with the little fairy tales and the nuns and I also happened to be a theater major at the time. I just got involved in a whole lot of things. Who was in the program with me? Margie Chittum was in a program with me and Bonnie Benedict. And little did I know, eight years later when I finally came back to major in theater at Barry College, I'd run into these same people as my classmates.
Neill Miller: I had Margie Chittum in class one year.
Marilyn: Sure. And Margie and I started dancing together about two years later when I came for a dance program during the summer. A year later, I came back and did A Summer Heart with Sister Alice Joseph, ahead of the art department.
Neill Miller: Sister Mary Joseph.
Marilyn: That was when the printing gallery used to be the art gallery. The printing shop used to be the art gallery. We used to walk through the art gallery every day and visit that. The library used to be above Adrian Hall. There was no reading center, there was no the library at the time. The dance studio was still there. It used to be the Center of Dance with a little creative movement. I think I more or less decided to come to Barry College then. I was eleven or twelve and it was one of my long term goals. I was going to Barry College as a Theater major because I really did love it.
Neill Miller: Then what years were you a student here?
Neill Miller: I wonder what kind of things you found motivational when you were here as a student with respect from some of the curricular activities when you were here?
Marilyn: I think that the neatest thing, the first production that I was involved with was Hello Dolly. I had been dancing for a while, since I was 8 or 10 years old. Sister Marie Carol had known that I was a dancer. In the first semester I walked on campus, she handed me a score from Hello Dolly and she said, "By the way, I'd like you to choreograph the show." I freaked out totally. I had no idea what the word meant, let alone how to do it. In my sense, she had seen something in me that I had not seen before as far as my dance. That was a struggle for me that has stayed with me for a long time, even till this day as far as the most creative things out of the teachers and the faculty here fill little things about you, little creative talents. They say, "Hey, do you know you're this way?" And, "Let's work on this." They find time to get you involved this way. With Sister Marie Carol and Petronila, who was my teacher then and is now my associate, they found ways to really promote my dance and they found a way for my dance to fit into the theater. They would ask me to teach classes to run the choreography. The department was this way. We had maybe 20-25 people who were really talented in all different areas. Jimmy Puig was here, he happened to be a very talented artist. Chris Chavers, she and I started with the Children's theater. In that discovery I had worked with Sister Marie Carol trying to keep that going.
Neill Miller: We were all excited just talking about it again.
Marilyn: Really it is a lot of good years because there was so many people on campus and everyone had something different to offer and yet, the department found a way to show you in your best light and to nurture that and to keep it going that way. You develop a real deep respect for a department that is so diversitile, that is so creative and so challenging. There is always somebody really to do a project with you. Michael McKenna, William McKenna, Pearl Farley and Dominic and Richard Rosetti was here. All of us have been interested in mime at the same time and this was part of a class that Patronilla held for us. Lily, and Richard, and Dominic, and Pearl got a little company together and we used to tour around.
Neill Miller: Oh, I didn't know that.
Marilyn: Yes, that was the first one. It was a Mock Story Tour Company and they used to tour around to different festivals and fairs.
Neill Miller: I didn't know that Lily and Mike, Lily and Mike?
Neill Miller: Were the first two male graduates Barry College ever had.
Marilyn: Yeah, well, 1971 I believe was the first year that they allowed men on campus to major in fine arts. That was the first year and I think the coeducation of the college came a few years later. In fact, my first year that I was here, the dress code changed.
Neill Miller: Really?
Marilyn: Yes, we had to wear skirts in the halls all the time and I remember the day that I changed was in the fall semester and all of a sudden it changed and we no longer had to sneak around with our shorts under our skirts in order to go to theater class.
Neill Miller: I used to change my tennis shoes in to walk across campus because of that dress code.
Marilyn: You had to and really sneak a cigarette somewhere else on campus.
Neill Miller: I wonder if you answered my next question, or part of it anyhow, with respect for your technically challenging parochial major in theater and dance even though there was no dance major here. That certainly was a good deal of your life.
Marilyn: I think so. This was technically challenging and this was a very fine point that I owe Barry College to this day is we've had a run with the light bulb. Sometimes you had to hit it three times in order to get the lights on. At times you'd be standing in the auditorium and the light would change. Mrs. M would be yelling at the lighting technicians and they'd be standing next to her trying to figure out why the lights had changed. It did it by its own ambition. It was just wonderful. But, went you work with a small budget in a department that had to do everything, a small department, you learn pretty much how to do everything as far as building a show from scratch. You learn how to make lights if you don't have the money to buy them. When you get into a situation where you do have a small budget to put on a show, it's really neat to know, "Well, this is how we can make do." or, "This is how we can create something that might be a little bit better creating from scratch." Literally that's what it was, creating a show from scratch, with left overs, with things that people had discarded in order to build something and in most cases our sets were magnificent because 20 people had gotten together and used their ingenuity, their creativity and their talent and their sharing of ideas. The basic sharing of ideas to make something work. Mark Masson was here, he was our staff electrician and also carpenter, we learned so much from him because he had a capacity technically that we didn't have and he would share that information with us. In fact, he was responsible at first for the lighting system going in the back of the house. He spent something like, I think, a week dragging lines up through the grids, climbing through the grids with all these lines and try to hook them up. Mark had done all this for us which was really neat to learn having no maintenance do the work for you. It's really remarkable learning the facility as far as that. Because we really didn't have much, we had the capacity to do more and to experiment more. If we broke a piece of wood, it was not disastrous because it was probably old wood to begin with and we can probably use it for something else.
Neill Miller: Marilyn, I've heard it rumored around that the theater professors and students searched through the trash dumps.
Marilyn: Put it down in history, yes. In fact, when I came back to teach at Barry College, one of the first shows that I directed was Star Troops of Flies. I swear we did the show, the set, on five dollars from the dump. We loaded up three cars of styrofoam, and odds and ends, and that's what we had available in the theater department. That's all the show cost was five or six dollars. That's all we purchased.
Neill Miller: Now that you're back as a faculty member, do you feel the same sharing, experiences, and opportunities are available for the students coming in that department now?
Marilyn: I think so. When I left Barry, I went to the University of Miami to get my Master's Degree to work there. That's a totally different experience as far as there are tons of students running around and they have lots of money to do the shows. My eyes were bugging out the first semester I was there. I couldn't believe that they had all this money to do the show. They had twice our budget.
It was neat that I had to struggle at Barry with what I had here. It was a human quality as far as showing appreciation and love that was here. When I came back as a faculty member, I was determined to continue that tradition and still provide the students with the possible best theater education that we could provide them as far as technically they had to learn how to use new tools. They had to learn that this new lighting system is available, or this type of make- up is available, or this is how it's done professionally. You might not have this when you go to work in theater and education, you may not have all this equipment or all of these supplies. If you ever do, at least you get to learn how to work at the other side of the spectrum which is the dimension that I felt was needed. This is what Pat and myself have instigated in this program. That's what we introduced into this program. As a result, we have a new lighting system, a new sound system. We have a fairly strong theater youth program.
Neill Miller: Yet, the students still visit the trash dumps, right?
Marilyn: The students still learn the value of economy, yes. It's still the same sharing which I like and we have some marvelous, marvelous students. They still learn quite a bit by doing things from scratch. I prefer to believe in that. That's exciting.
Neill Miller: What are the differences, a decade later almost, in Barry College from the time that you were a student until now? What are really noticeable to you?
Marilyn: As much as I hate to say this, I think we were a lot crazier when we came here. I find the students a little bit more reserved, more intense as far as what they want to accomplish. That's a big difference, I think, where you've got really good heads on your shoulders and they've got goals, which is kind of neat to explore with them. That's my perception. Of course, they might say that we weren't as crazy as they were.
I think this college has grown tremendously. The atmosphere, I think the atmosphere has not changed as much as, it would have changed a little bit throughout the years, but I think there is still a fairly progressive atmosphere here which I like. There is a serenity about Barry College that is very conducive to learning. It is still kind of fun to follow some students into some certain classes and tell them I took that class once and this is what I found.
I think the big change academically, as far as the difference in core classes, we had more requirements, they had less. They had more freedom to be creative and we were really more restricted as far as our core classes in what we could take. Another big change academically is we have more courses to offer the students as a theater major.
Neill Miller: Really? Than you had then?
Marilyn: Oh yes, much more specialized courses as far as sound design, lighting design, stage design. I believe they're a lot better as far as the way they're structured and where they've come. Maybe that's because I was a student and now I'm a teacher. It's kind of hard to judge because you leave a situation and you say, "Well, this is what I missed, so if I have an opportunity ever to go back, I'm going to make sure this ends up in the program." I think to myself, I do that kind of comparison technique. They do have a lot more courses as far as specialized courses. I'd like to see more of them.
Neill Miller: I remember when you were a student, you choreographed some musicals and I said to you before, I really didn't remember you as a student, but now I do now that you mentioned that one musical that you choreographed. I do remember Sister Marie Carol having you choreograph many musicals for her. It was after that experience you directed a play. It must have been hard.
Marilyn: It had nothing to do with a musical or a comedy.
Neill Miller: Some critics said it was.
Marilyn: Well, they were wrong. Do you find that an experience that was an enjoyable one, to really be able to direct seriously?
Marilyn: It's challenging.
Neill Miller: As far as the enjoyment.
Marilyn: Well, it's wacky because that was for me a field that I am not used to being in. That's a chair that I am not used to being in. A director is not my job.
Neill Miller: But, you did it well.
Marilyn: I attempted it and I was determined to do it to the best of my capacity. Of course, it helped to be away for a year at Florida State and get some information there.
Neill Miller: You went away to have your Doctorate?
Marilyn: North Miami Dade. I had a lot of writing to do. It's very strange to be on the other side of the fence post and to be the person who's deciding the major impact on the show rather than the person who's pricking the directors brains to decide where the movings should go. It was extremely an enjoyable experience. The children's center was, children were very close to a low level to begin with. I really got wrapped up in doing that show. I stood in the cast. If anything else, we had a wonderful time doing the show. That in itself was an exhilarating experience to have that energy level.
Neill Miller: It was an exhilarating experience for me as a viewer of the show.
Marilyn: We tried some new things as far as I direct totally, completely different from Petronila. This is something that we chuckle about because I tend to choreograph my shows which is I guess a theater pun. I'm very particular about movement and where it goes and how it sits down and where it goes from there. I'm what you might call a Gordon Craig director. I have to have control over everything which is good or bad depending upon how you look at it. We always laugh about that only because you give the students another side of a director. If you've been in the business long enough, you know that there are many directors who do things very differently. It's always kind of fun to see a student’s reaction to a different directing approach. The manner and one difference in particular is the initial blocking of a show. Pat takes at least two or three days as do most directors and I take about two weeks to initially publish.
Neill Miller: My goodness. It must be hard to choreograph.
Marilyn: Yes, really, it's very different approaches. I'm a little bit expressionistic as far as a Gordon Craig director.
Neill Miller: Marilyn, I know that when you were a student you might have walked into a class a few minutes late, but now that you're a professor, you may not want to walk into class a few minutes late, but you've already said in the past that you have, so maybe it would be best to cut things off.
Marilyn: Okay, thank you.
Neill Miller: It's been a real pleasure to sit and talk with you. I heard a few things I didn't know.