July 30, 1999

KU THEATRE ANNOUNCES LEWAN ALEXANDER SPIRITSHIP FUND

LAWRENCE -- The University Theatre at the University of Kansas has established the LeWan Alexander Spiritship Fund to honor an alumnus and former faculty member. The Alexander Fund is being kicked-off with a $250,000 gift from Dale Jellison Weary and Robert K. Weary of Junction City, who have established a charitable lead annuity trust with the Kansas University Endowment Association.

Alexander, a native of Junction City, attended KU from 1979 to 1983. He returned to KU in the early 1990s as a visiting faculty member and to help create a minority theatre program. At the time of his death, in October 1995, he was a professional actor performing with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore.

The Wearys, longtime Junction City civic leaders, met Alexander when he was a high school student participating in productions at the Junction City Little Theatre. The couple supported his education at KU and traveled throughout the country to see Alexander perform on stage.

James Still, Venice, Calif., a 1982 KU alumnus who chairs the Alexander Fund Steering Committee, said the Spiritship Fund was created to "memorialize Mr. Alexander's spirit by establishing an ongoing guest artist program which celebrates and extends the kinds of contributions he made to and through the University Theatre at KU."

The Alexander Fund will support guest artists who can be role models to enhance the involvement of KU minority students in University Theatre productions; will promote an increase in the number of University Theatre productions providing a focused artistic voice to multicultural issues; will enhance the multiracial awareness of all University Theatre audiences, regardless of ethnic heritage; and will make evident to the KU community and beyond the University Theatre's ongoing commitment to multiracial theatre.

"LeWan touched a lot of people: he was passionate, articulate, funny, exasperating, talented, demanding, mysterious, loving, infuriating, generous he was a good guy," Still said. "We want to make this spiritship happen so we can honor LeWan's unique spirit and all he brought to the University Theatre and the KU Department of Theatre and Film and later in his professional career as an actor performing around the world."

The Alexander Fund began with a discussion on the Internet among a number of KU theatre alumni who subscribe to the Department of Theatre and Film List Serve. A steering committee met for the first time last October to establish goals for the spiritship. The committee hopes to have funds raised by 2001 to finance the program's activities; to identify suitable theatre guest artists to be considered for campus residencies in the University Theatre; to identify, contact and marshall the support of other people who knew and worked with Lewan Alexander; and to explore other existing KU programs and initiatives that might be allied with and strengthen this program.

During his student days at KU, Alexander performed in University Theatre productions of "Streamers," "Grease," "The Admirable Crichton," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Much Ado About Nothing." When he returned to campus as a guest faculty member, he directed productions of "The Colored Museum" and "We Be Doin' It," and acted in a workshop production of "Blood Knot."

Alexander received his bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts degrees from the Professional Theatre Training Program at the University of Delaware and did additional graduate study at the Hillberry Repertory Theatre. He appeared in productions at the North German Theatre Festival in Bremen; Suzuki Company of Toga, Japan; Utah Shakeapeare Festival; Milwaukee Repertory Theatre; American Players Theatre; Madison Repertory Theatre; Champlain Shakespeare Festival Nebraska Shakespeare Festival; and Hillberry Repertory Theatre.

Gifts to the LeWan Alexander Spiritship Fund are being administered through the KU Endowment Association.

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