New Centre drama professor brings different sensibility to department

October 12, 2004|KATIE McBRIDE

Skirts and perfume have entered the dramatic arts department at Centre College. Before this year, the program consisted of only male faculty, but this fall, Vessela Warner arrived.

Warner was born and raised in Bulgaria, where she completed her undergraduate and most of her graduate work. In 1996, she came to the United States to join her husband, Kevin Warner. They settled in Seattle and Warner received her Ph.D. in drama from the University of Washington. This June, they moved with their daughter, Sophia, to Danville.

Warner describes Bulgaria, situated between Europe and Asia, as a crossroads, a place where many cultures and styles mix. "It's so beautiful like that," she says.

She finds this to be true of Danville as well, located between the North and the deep South. No matter where she is, she says, she finds, "The theater element is everywhere."


The idea of being the only woman professor in the department doesn't bother her. She says she is "surrounded by gentlemen" who are "supportive and generous." The faculty and their families helped Warner and her family settle in and adjust to Danville life.

As a mom, she brings her "motherly point of view" to the classroom and stage "with a desire to bring peace and harmony." There are two sides to every story, a counterpoint for every point, and Warner strives to balance all these aspects.

"Balance and measure - these are my guiding rules. Harmony is my favorite word," she says. "It is the highest state of human existence."

This spring, Warner will direct the Centre Players production of Tales from the Vienna Woods, by Odon von Horvath.

"This play is a parable about the heart of the European culture crashing under the rising Nazism," she explains.

Hopes to direct contemporary Bulgarian drama

For 2005-2006, she hopes to direct January by Yordan Radichkov. Warner says she considers this piece to be one of the best in contemporary Bulgarian drama. It will be the American debut of the piece and she looks forward to directing it. Warner describes the play as a "mystic experience, but one that is carried out with humor and allegory."

Warner is intrigued by cultural heritage. For a while, though, she struggled to classify herself. Eastern European didn't satisfy her. Her dissertation, Cultural Identification in Balkan Drama: Self -Perceptions and Representations in Macedonian, Serbian and Balkan Drama, addressed this concern and focused on the question: What makes us Balkan?

"We are really a tough people," she says, remembering the years of hardship under communist rule.

While in college she joined the one of the first liberal democratic parties, in an effort to "be part of the change." She also took part in a students' strike after the communists won the first free election. She visits Bulgaria often and is glad Sophia will have an international upbringing.

Warner describes Centre's drama program as being "free-spirited and enthusiastic," and is impressed by how the whole student body comes together to support a show.

"The students are the greatest asset here," she says. "They work hard and are challenging. They fight for positions and the statements that they make - and that is important. Students here are not afraid to use critical judgments in class."

Central Kentucky News Articles