Provost previews her one woman show


Kate Bragg

Sue Ott Rowlands, provost and vice president of academic affairs, presented a glimpse at her one woman show. Ott Rowlands play ran at NKU March 22-28.

On Wednesday night, around 50 faculty and staff members of NKU gathered at The Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati to hear Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Sue Ott Rowlands’ 6@6 lecture about snakes, religion and spousal abuse.

Switching back and forth between two podiums, Ott Rowlands stepped in and out of character as she dissected her one-act play “Mud Nostalgia” written by Mark Evans Bryan.

Ott Rowlands last performed the show in 2011 after some rewriting and toured to several different countries showcasing her talent, initially running the play for three weeks at the International Prague Theater Festival.

“Now I am reviving the production of ‘Mud Nostalgia’ for a three performance run at Northern Kentucky University’s Corbett Theater,” Ott Rowlands said, which she followed up by exclaiming the date and time (March 26 through 28 at 8 p.m.) to get her point across.

Originally the second part of a two-part play, “Mud Nostalgia” focuses on a woman’s journey as she struggles with betrayal from her abusive, drunk husband and a test of faith at their Appalachian Holiness Church which handles venomous snakes as part of its rituals.

“At the end of ‘Mud Nostalgia’, the woman has survived a nearly fatal snakebite and reflects on love and loss; remembrance and regret; and the tenacity of the human spirit,” Ott Rowlands said.

The playtells the tale of a religious Alabama couple and required a lot of research to get the story right.

“Writing this play required a lot of research,” Ott Rowlands said as she held up her “Mud Nostalgia” notebook which cataloged all of the background information, clippings and ideas which went into the play.

Ott Rowlands and Evans Bryan also recalled upon autobiographical experiences as basis for some of the play. She referenced her childhood in Oklahoma and her old church, and her playwright’s experiences during family vacations passing through Texas.

Altering her accent to that of a southern woman, Ott Rowlands performed brief excerpts from her one-woman act every few minutes, removing her shoes and wrapping her scarf around her hand like a gauze bandage as she walked from her speaking podium to her acting podium, which signified her shift into character.

At one point, Ott Rowlands sang a hymn about seeing her mother up in heaven while in character.

“I had to write that hymn myself — there are no songs about women in Church Christ hymnals,” Ott Rowlands said, discussing how the songs are the newest iteration of the piece. And while she says that “organized religion doesn’t do it for [her]” mostly because of the submissive role designated to females in the church, she does claim that religion fascinates her.

“I am not trying to make commentary on [Appalachian religious believers],” Ott Rowland said. “I am just trying to help viewers understand this particular woman.”

President Mearns, who attended the lecture, enjoyed how creative and informative the presentation was in explaining how a play is formed, and he encourages students to attend the performances in March.

“It’s a good chance for students and faculty to see a different side of their provost,” Mearns said.

Tickets cost $8 for students and $10 for general admission. Those who haven’t yet can witness Ott Rowlands’ Master of Fine Arts in Acting and Directing at work by viewing “Mud Nostalgia.”