Play honors life of former College president
Kelly Konya | Thursday, March 20, 2014
The Saint Mary’s community brought to life the story of the College’s illustrious visionary, poet, scholar and third president Sister M. Madeleva Wolff, in an original play titled “Madeleva: A Play in Several Voices” on Thursday evening.
Communication studies lecturer Susan Baxter wrote the play using alumnae memories as well as essays and dramatic monologues by students.
Since 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Madeleva’s death, the play was a highly anticipated event for the entire Saint Mary’s community.
The play was part of the annual spring lecture series hosted by the Center for Spirituality (CFS). This year’s series is focused on the lives and leadership of religious women, director of media relations Gwen O’Brien said.
Wolff was the president of the College from 1934-1961. According to a College press release, during her tenure, Wolff put her talents and efforts to use in leading Saint Mary’s to become nationally recognized as a premier liberal arts college. At the time of her death, one journalist described her as “the most renowned nun in the world,” O’Brien said.
Elizabeth Groppe, director of CFS beginning this academic year, carried forward plans for the lecture series and solicited the help of two faculty members in the creation of a play celebrating the life of Sister Madeleva, O’Brien said.
In the fall of 2013, students in professor of English Laura Haigwood’s writing proficiency course, along with students Baxter’s playwriting course, wrote research essays and extended monologues about Wolff, O’Brien said.
“Sister M. Madeleva Wolff was a complex, flawed and brilliant individual,” Baxter said. “What we came to appreciate as we worked on this play, however, is that she was less extraordinary than — and more exemplary of — the beautiful Holy Cross Order that created her. With all our hearts, we believe she would concur.”
Groppe said she was grateful to Haigwood and Baxter for their tremendous work and long hours put into the composition and production.
“The play … will bring Sister Madeleva to life for a new generation of young women, for whom she is a model of a woman of prayer who surmounted many challenges to become a distinguished scholar, poet, educator, and leader in both Catholic higher education and the life of religious communities of women,” she said.
The cast was comprised of students and faculty, with sophomore Kaitlyn Baker starring as Wolff from age 5-17, alumna Eva Cavadini ’12 as Wolff from age 18-60 and Baxter as Wolff at age 70, Baxter said.
Baxter said the play is a work in progress, which she hopes will include even more stories of Wolff’s life in the future.