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Legacy of Henry Kemp-Blair honored at annual Shakespeare festival

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Gathered on the stage of Waltmar Theatre to celebrate the legacy of Henry Kemp-Blair are (l-r) Dale Merrill, dean of the College of Performing Arts, Kemp-Blair’s daughters Cindy Wilson and Iris Gerbasi, assistant chancellor, Michael Nehring, professor, and Nina Lenoir, chair of the Department of Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Dale Dudeck.)

The high school students who filled the seats in Chapman University’s Waltmar Theatre weren’t born when the late Henry Kemp-Blair was building a tradition of Shakespearean studies on campus.

But as participants in the 40th annual Henry Kemp-Blair Shakespeare Festival offered by the Department of Theatre, the students were certainly the direct recipients of his work. So to conclude the first day of the two-day festival,  organizers celebrated his memory with cake and the announcement that his name would be added to the Faculty Wall of Honor in Leatherby Libraries.

“Henry Kemp-Blair is really legendary here at Chapman University,” said Dale Merrill, dean of the College of Performing Arts.

Kemp-Blair profoundly advanced the performing arts at Chapman, from the launch of the first summer Shakespeare festival at Chapman in 1961 to the launch of the popular London theatre tours for students, said Michael Nehring, theatre professor.

“There’s a lot of feeling for Henry Kemp-Blair in these halls. Students still today will hear a creak and they’ll say, ‘Well it’s Henry,’” Nehring said.

Among those attending the ceremony were Kemp-Blair’s daughters, Iris Gerbasi, assistant chancellor, and Cindy Wilson.

Dawn Bonker

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