11/15/2023 3:17 pm
By Sara Myers, Digital Media & Communications Specialist
Learning about an institution’s history often requires research. To make Rockford University’s history more engaging without reading a book or two, RU’s Performing Arts professor Deborah Mogford decided to produce a dramatization on its most famous class, just in time for one of the University’s busiest weekends.
During homecoming weekend, Oct. 13, 2023, Rockford University’s Performing Arts department performed Mogford’s production, “The Addams Thread,” focusing on the university’s most well-known classes.
“It’s lovely to read a novel, I’m a big reader, but people remember stories they see visually,” Mogford said. “That’s the beauty of drama.”
Mogford wrote and directed the play as a dedication to the “Glorious Seventeen,” the seventeen women who graduated from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881, which includes notable Alumni Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and the founder of Chicago’s Hull House. Mogford added that she also dedicates this play to all RU alumni.
“Graduates of this university can attest to RU’s dedication to advancing knowledge for the students while fostering life-long intellectual curiosity,” Mogford said in the director’s note in the production’s program. “They can also speak to the school’s commitment to instilling in the student population a desire to seek a life of purpose, service, and leadership to the community they choose to inhabit.”
To create this production, Mogford said she researched Jane Addams’s valedictorian speech where she discovered Addams’s nickname for her graduating class. This led Mogford to create a show that touched on how the “Glorious Seventeen” were always bonded and how Jane attending Rockford had the impact it did.
“I got to thinking that’s lovely and it’s 1893, four lovely women, all white,” Mogford said. “The school doesn’t look like that anymore. So, what is that legacy, and how does it look in 2023? So, I thought, I’ll then jump ahead 100 years.”
The play is split into two scenes at different times and places.
Scene I is set in the summertime in 1893 at Rockford College alumna Mrs. Jonathan McKnight or Aunt Katherine’s house. There, Aunt Katherine is joined by her niece Arabella Amato, her niece’s friend Cora Edwards, and her good friend and classmate from Rockford, Martha Gail. The scene is placed 12 years after graduation and four years after the Addams formed Hull House.
The second scene is set in the Spring of 2023 at Maddox Theatre, where five students are talking about going for a coffee run together when they run into a potential RU student.
“I want to be able to have this piece ready to go at any time,” Mogford said. “So, as students graduate then that part goes to someone else. It’s a piece that’s always ready to go whenever the school needs it for recruitment or historical reference.”
After taking the summer of 2023 to write the play, Mogford was ready in August for prep. Mogford put together the cast and crew and held a complete read-through of the production. She would meet periodically with the groups from both scenes. She added that the cast would rehearse on and off but the final push came 10 days before the show went on.
“I hope they bring it back for Charter Day or orientation,” she said. “And, when we have groups on campus who are looking at the school we can also do it then if we have plenty of notice.”
THE ADDAMS THREAD
Performed Oct. 13, 2023
Written and Directed by Deborah Mogford
Lighting Designer: Eric Brockmeier
Costume Designer: Ryan Moller
Stage Manager: Jeremy Rogers
Technical Director: Beth Drog
TIME: Mid-June on a perfect summer afternoon, 1883
Place: The lush garden of Aunt Catherine’s House on Harlem Blvd. in Rockford, IL
CAST, in order of appearance
Martha Gail: Aubry Musfelt
Arabella (Bella) Amato: Lindsay Johnson
Aunt Catherine (Mrs. Jonathan McKnight): Emmarie Wilson
Cora Edwards (Mrs. George Edwards): Lucy Parlapiano
TIME: Late April on a perfect spring day, 2023
Place: Maddox Theatre
CAST, in order of appearance
Marie: Adara Barrera Medina
Jake: Robbie Strader
James: Carter Coryell
Allison: Keira Alejandro
Samantha: Kaleigh Ferguson
Will: Elijah Lowry
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