Midori (Harris) MacLean '05 Remembers the Renaissance Center's Arthur Kinney
By Midori (Harris) MacLean | Thursday, February 24, 2022
By Midori (Harris) MacLean
Thursday, February 24, 2022
We were very saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Arthur Kinney, a good friend of the Theater department and one of the more delightful, brilliant, and indefatigably productive professors who ever set foot on this campus. In addition to being witty, warm, and generous, he was – uncommonly — both a pragmatist and a visionary. The result is a tremendous legacy, both in the Center that bears this name, and in the many students he inspired. In celebration of Arthur’s memory, here is one Theater student’s testimonial. I will miss Arthur a lot. – Harley Erdman
In the fall of 2002 my classmate Shannon Dupont (previously Stillings) and I met in a Dramaturgy of Shakespeare class taught by Professor Dominica Plummer (previously Borg) at The UMass Department of Theater. Shannon and I both wanted more opportunities to hone our theater skills in directing, acting and producing while immersing ourselves in Shakespeare’s work. We saw an opportunity to create something not only for ourselves, but also for other students both in our department and across UMass and the Five College Consortium. And thus the idea for the UMass Shakespeare Festival was born.
Shannon and I had big dreams and goals for the Festival. We spent many afternoons planning and imagining what it could be, but we needed a performance space that would provide for our ambitious ideas. The main stages at the UMass Theater department were used for the annual performances produced by the department, so there were no options there. Little did we know that there was a perfect location awaiting us less than a mile up the road on the grounds of The Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies.
The Center was founded in 1998, by Professor Arthur Kinney, a professor of English at UMass for many decades. For UMass to have a research institute that’s dedicated to Renaissance studies is not a common thing you will find at universities around the United States. It is unique. There are many reasons I’m proud to be an alumna of UMass Amherst, but The Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies is at the top of the list. And not just for its noteworthy research, but for its commitment to students and the larger community. Places this exceptional don’t become this way by accident, but through the kindness, generosity and passion of people, people like Professor Kinney.
It was Professor Plummer who introduced Shannon and me to Professor Kinney. After meeting Arthur on the Center’s beautiful grounds, he offered his enthusiastic support of our ideas and opened the doors of the Center and the surrounding property to us, giving the UMass Shakespeare Festival its home. The first Festival was held in May 2003. While Arthur gave Shannon and I the space to plan and execute our vision, he also made himself available to us. He made the Center a welcoming place and Arthur’s door was always open to students and guests. Hundreds of students and community members were involved in the Festival on that beautiful spring morning. Not only did Arthur attend the Festival, he dressed up in a Renaissance costume and graciously greeted every patron like they were an honored guest in his home. Arthur sat in the front row for every performance and shared with us in the excitement and splendor of the day.
Arthur Kinney passed away on Christmas Day 2021. Hearing this news earlier this year has had me reflecting on those years producing the Festival and the incredible opportunity that was given so generously by Arthur to my classmates and me. The Festival was intended to be an opportunity to become better theater artists, but while producing the Festival, I learned far more important lessons about responsibility, leadership, and fortitude. I learned about the power of community, generosity and trust. I learned the profound and long-term impact you can have on someone’s life when you choose to say ‘yes’, and give a couple of young students a place realize their dreams. These are lessons I learned from Arthur by his actions and by his example, all of which I carry with me today.