Saturday, April 22, 2006

That toe-dancin' school

As part of NCSA's 40th anniversary celebrations, John Ehle will be participating in a panel discussion with some of its other founders. It's being held today (Sat 22nd) at 2pm, in the Watson Chamber Music Hall on the NCSA campus at 1533 S. Main St, Winston-Salem.

NCSA will cap its 40th birthday on Saturday with a panel discussion among six founders. Bill Friday, the former president of the University of North Carolina system, was supposed to moderate the panel but is ill, Marla Carpenter, a NCSA spokesperson, said yesterday. Dale Pollock, the dean of the School of Filmmaking, will lead the discussion instead.

The forum will also be recorded for the school's archives. Organizers say they hope that the forum will focus on NCSA's early history, from an idea tossed around in then-Gov. Terry Sanford's circles to a heated battle among House legislators to the muddy fields around the fledgling campus.

NCSA was the first state-funded arts conservatory in the country.

Lindgren [first dean of School of Dance] will join NCSA founders John Ehle, Thomas Lambeth, arts patron Phil Hanes, former trustee Mary Semans and Robert Ward, NCSA's the president from 1967 to 1974. Ehle and Lambeth served on Sanford's staff.

The legislation that gave birth to NCSA became sarcastically known among some opponents as the "toe-dancin' bill," according to A Passionate Preference, a book of the school's history by Leslie Banner.

"I just don't think we ought to spend money to learn people to pick banjers and toe-dance and sing in foreign languages," Dan Simpson, a Republican representative from Burke County, said at the time. "If we have money to spend, we should make it possible for everyone to get a low-cost college education. I don't think we should use it to turn out people like Liz Taylor or Richard Burton."

From the Winston-Salem Journal. NCSA also has a press release with biographies of the panelists:

Novelist John Ehle is the author of 17 books (11 fiction and six nonfiction), which have been translated into French, German, Swedish, Spanish, Japanese and other languages. Mr. Ehle has made profound contributions to North Carolina in a variety of programs designed to help people reach their potential. As a member of Governor Terry Sanford's staff in the 1960s, he was the "idea man" behind the creation of the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Governor's School. He also helped start the North Carolina Film Board, North Carolina Institute of Outdoor Drama, the North Carolina Advancement School and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Mr. Ehle has received both an honorary doctorate and Giannini Award from NCSA, where he has a scholarship established in his name. Mr. Ehle, along with the John Ehle and Vernon E. Jordan Trust, recently established three new endowed guest artist funds at NCSA: the Anne Cannon Forsyth Visiting Artist Funds in Dance, Drama and Music. Mr. Ehle and his wife, actress Rosemary Harris, reside in Winston-Salem, and they have a daughter, actress Jennifer Ehle, an NCSA alumna. Miss Harris is a member of the NCSA Board of Visitors and has been a frequent guest artist at NCSA.

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