LSU Department of Theatre Professor Emeritus John Dennis Dies at 74, Memorial Service Scheduled for Feb. 18 in Shaver Theatre
BATON ROUGE – John Dennis, Professor Emeritus in the LSU Department of Theatre, passed away peacefully in his home on Friday, Jan. 27, according to information from the department. He was 74 years old.
Dennis was a respected director and acting teacher at LSU for more than 30 years. Born in Joliet, Ill., in 1935, he attended Northern Illinois State University, De Kalb, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also received an MFA degree from Ohio University.
“JD,” as he was affectionately called by his friends and students, joined the faculty at LSU in 1980 after working for eight years as the artistic director of the Resident Ensemble and Improvisational Theatre Project at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles. During that time, he was awarded two L.A. Drama Critic’s Awards and the Dramalogue Award for Directing, while his company won several awards for Best Ensemble. While at the Mark Taper Forum he directed more than 20 productions including “Bugs/Guns,” “Leander Stillwell,” “Artaud,” “The Romance and Tragedy of Pioneer Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “An Act of Imagination” and “The Congress of Idiots.” Before working at The Taper Forum, Dennis taught at The University of Northern Iowa and St Cloud State University in Minnesota.
During his professional career, Dennis directed more than 50 productions at regional theatres throughout the country. This includes The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Magic Theatre, The Intiman Theatre, Southcoast Repertory Theatre and The Taper Too. At the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Dennis directed “Two Gentleman of Verona,” “The Miser,” “The Comedy of Errors” and his own production, “Shakespeare in Briefs.” Dennis also directed the world premiere of “Shiloh Rules,” written by his friend Doris Baizley for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which he later brought to Swine Palace where he cast his own LSU graduate acting students as well as local professional actors.
Dennis’ many productions at LSU include “A Christmas Carol,” “You Can't Take It With You,” “Lysistrata,” “The Seagull,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Orphans,” “Look Homeward Angel,” “Killer Joe,” “The Tooth of Crime,” “The Rose Tattoo,” “Fool for Love,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Balcony Scene,” “Picnic,” “The Suicide,” “The King Stag,” “The Rimers of Eldritch,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “The Bacchae,” “Terra Nova,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Dracula,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Miser” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” His productions of “Fool for Love” and “The Balcony Scene” were chosen by the national committee of the American College Theatre Festival to be performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he also received Directing Honors.
At LSU, Dennis received the LSU Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award in 1991, the Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award in 1996 and The Tiger Athletic Foundation Teaching Award in 2003. In 2002, he became the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts’ first Gresdna A. Doty Professor of Theatre.
A memorial service to honor Dennis will be held Saturday, Feb. 18, at 11 a.m. in the Claude L. Shaver Theatre, located in the Music & Dramatic Arts Building on Dalrymple Drive.
Contributions may be made in memory of John Dennis, in care of the LSU Foundation, 3838 W. Lakeshore Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70808.