Joanne Klein, chair of the department, professor of theater, film, and media studies, and former coordinator of the cross-disciplinary minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies, died October 26, 2016, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown, MD, after a short battle with esophageal cancer. Few colleagues and teachers have made such an enormous impact on the faculty, students, and institution than Joanne, and she is deeply missed by many in the community as well as by many of her former students and colleagues.
Joanne Ruth Klein received her A.B., M.A., and PhD in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 1971. She came to St. Mary’s College in 1989 as an associate professor from The Colorado College and, with then-colleagues Michael Ellis-Tolaydo (emeritus) and Merideth Taylor (emerita), helped build a small, but active, department of dramatic arts into a thriving department of theater, film, and media studies.
An avid proponent of liberal arts breadth as the best setting for performance and screen studies, Joanne pursued a wide array of scholarly interests in film and theater studies as well as a diverse range of work as a stage director in both the professional and academic worlds. She was published in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Theatre Journal, and The Chelsea House Library of Literary Criticism. Her book, Making Pictures: The Pinter Screenplays (Ohio State University Press), is still considered by many to be the seminal work on playwright Harold Pinter’s early screen adaptations and is still cited widely by scholars of Pinter’s screenwriting and dramaturgy. Her essay, “Looking at Looking (at Looking): Experiments in the Interrogation of Spectating,” is included in the collection, Audience Participation: Crossing Time and Genre, and her most recent essay “Teaching Film to Trouble Verisimilitude,” is collected in Practical Approaches to Teaching Film. Her stage productions at St. Mary’s included The Threepenny Opera, Execution of Justice, Cloud 9, one of the first college productions of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches, The Laramie Project, The Serpent, and The Balcony. Productions elsewhere included Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Euripides’ Herakles, and Howard Barker’s Scenes from an Execution, which she adapted for the stage from radio. As a teacher, scholar, and director, Joanne was committed to cultural pluralism throughout all aspects of her work.
Joanne was a gifted teacher as well. In her film studies and theater studies courses at all levels, Joanne’s passion, intellect, deep knowledge, and famous vocabulary (dubbed “Jocabulary” by her students) were inspiring and galvanizing. Tributes to Joanne on social media by current and former students attest to the impact Joanne had on their lives as students and as human beings. They are a treasured legacy.
Joanne received many honors and awards for her creative, scholarly, and academic work, including a Peabody Award nomination early in her career for the direction and dramaturgical supervision of University Theatre Program, KSFO Radio, San Francisco; an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stanford University, 1980-1982; The Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History and The Theatre Library Association Award nominations for her book, Making Pictures: The Pinter Screenplays; the Faculty Service Award from St. Mary’s College’s Student Government Association; and numerous grants to support her research, writing, and pedagogy.
During her distinguished 41-year teaching career, Joanne served on the faculties at Middlebury College, Stanford University, The University of Denver, where she was director of graduate studies in theater, The Colorado College, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she taught for nearly 28 years. During her time on the faculty at SMCM, she co-founded the Women Studies program (now Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, aka WGSX) and served as coordinator for its first eight years (1997-2005); co-founded the annual WGSX colloquium series, now in its 18th year and a preeminent event on campus; initiated and oversaw the transition from a department of dramatic arts to theater, film, and media studies; served three times as department chair of dramatic arts then of theater, film, and media studies; and served on many of the College’s major committees, including the curriculum committee and faculty senate.
Joanne said many times to friends and colleagues that of all her achievements across her career, she was most pleased by the success of her former students, who are now thriving in careers or graduate work in fields both related and unrelated to theater, film, and media.
Joanne is survived by her partner of 37 years, Mark Rhoda, who is on the faculty at St. Mary’s; her sister, Susan, director of the medical physics program at Indiana University; brother-in-law, Jim, an astrophysicist at IU; and nephew, Jeremy, a PhD student in computer science and software engineering at IU. She is also survived by her two dogs, Frida and Zelda, and three horses, Bree, Dutiful, and Timmy.