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Hudson Valley News

SUNY Ulster Stages Play As A Posthumous Tribute


A play this weekend at a State University of New York community college in the Hudson Valley will be performed in memory of a well-known figure in Ulster County.

SUNY Ulster’s Theater Department June 13 and 14 will perform A Day in Court, written by Ron Marquette, who was the college’s coordinator of community relations and special events until his death in 2013.

“His energy, his humor his ebullience were absolutely infectious,” says Collins. “And I said the term that people use was force of nature. Without a doubt, Ron was a force of nature.”

That’s Marianne Collins, SUNY Ulster’s Dean of Advancement and Continuing Education. She’d known Marquette for some 30 years before his death at age 68 following a heart attack. Collins is also executive director of the Ulster Community College Foundation that is, in part, presenting the play.

“At one point, Ron gave me, years back, a copy of the play and said, ‘you know, I don’t want to self-promote, but I’ve come to love SUNY Ulster so much and I would just be so thrilled if some day my play could be performed here,’” says Collins. “And honestly, I put it on a shelf with tons of good intentions until this terrible thing happened in 2013 and we lost him, at which point I called Stephen and said, what would you think. And Stephen said, ‘you name it, we’ll do it’ because, like so many of us, Stephen recognized what a deeply moral and tremendously important figure Ron was to the college, to the community, to our students.”

SUNY Ulster Theater Coordinator Stephen Balantzian is directing Marquette’s two-actor play, adapted from Eric Bentley’s Larry Parks' Day in Court. He says the play depicts the historic testimony of Hollywood actor Larry Parks before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Balantzian says there was added sensitivity to the material because Marquette was the playwright.

“To work with a colleague’s language is, you have a personal attachment to making sure that it’s staged in a way and appropriately performed,” says Balantzian. “There’s just a weight in the rehearsal room and a real honor getting to work on a playwright that we actually knew and worked with really admired and loved. So there’s just an extra care and attention to it and to the process.”

He says the department usually stages one production in the spring and another in the fall. Marquette’s play is an added production.

“We have it all student supported so we have an entire student and alumni who have come back to act as  stage crew, stage management, run crew, so fully student supported,” Balantzian says. “And we’ve had the unique pleasure of hosting two professional, two local professional actors tell the story as Larry Parks and Hester, the other character.”

The actors are Sean Marrinan and Robert Figueroa. As Collins points out, Marquette’s contributions to the arts community extended well beyond his playwriting.

“He taught at SUNY New Paltz in their theater department,” Collins says. “He was actually the first chair and created the theater curriculum at Adirondack Community College, but, as I say, by the time he came to Ulster he had shifted into an administrative role.  And he began at the Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, New York, where he spent 10 years and then after 10 years went to the Ulster Performing Arts Center and became the executive director there. Under his guidance and leadership and energy, both of those organizations flourished. He’s credited locally with saving theater in Ulster County with the work that he performed at UPAC.”

She also talks about his involvement in economic development.

“During all this time, he never stinted on giving of his own personal time and energy to all manner of economic development and civic engagement activities,” says Collins. “He was chair of the board of the Ulster Development Corporation, of the Ulster Chamber of Commerce. He served as a member of the Kingston Community Development Advisory Board, the Ulster County Housing Consortium. Ron was the go-to guy for economic development and civic engagement. If you wanted to figure out a strategy to make something happen, you would call Ron, and everybody knew that was the case.”

Balantzian says Marquette was a mentor.

“Ron was a personal friend and a mentor for the few short years that I had the pleasure of working with him here at SUNY Ulster,” Balantzian says. “And he was a real cheerleader for our department, the SUNY Ulster Theater Department. He was a real champion of the arts here and really guided me in terms of how to service the arts here at SUNY Ulster and how to really just run a theatre program.”

SUNY Ulster’s Theater Department will perform Ron Marquette’s A Day in Court the evenings of June 13 and June 14 at Quimby Theater. A suggested $10 donation is to benefit the Ron Marquette Writers Scholarship.

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