College of Marin Honors One of Its Own

College of Marin

James Dunn
James Dunn

Kentfield, CA—Feb. 21, 2013—On June 19, 2012, the College of Marin Board of Trustees voted unanimously to honor an acclaimed drama instructor, College of Marin alumnus, and local theater icon by naming its newly remodeled performing arts theater at the Kentfield campus in honor of James Dunn. The dedication of the James Dunn Theatre will be celebrated at a premier performance of Roger Miller’s Big River, on March 1, 2013, at 8 p.m. This charming musical has never been performed in Marin and will be directed by none other than James Dunn himself. The performance will be followed by the dedication of the James Dunn theatre and a party celebrating Dunn’s 80th birthday.

Big River Opening Night Performance and Post-show Party – $40
Friday, March 1, 2013, 8 pm
James Dunn Theatre
835 College Ave
Kentfield, CA

Directed by James Dunn, with musical direction by Paul Smith, and choreography by Sandra Tanner. The Marin County Premier of Big River is presented by special arrangement with Rodgers & Hammerstein, Inc.

Additional performances of Big River
February 28 (Pay-What-You-Will Preview)
March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8 pm
March 10 and 17 at 2 pm
Tickets: $25 general, $18 seniors, $15 students, $10 children 12 and under

BOX OFFICE: 415.485.9385

Naming a facility is one of the highest honors that the college can bestow on an individual.

Colleges and universities often name facilities based on significant philanthropic gifts. It is somewhat less common for an institution to name a major facility on the basis of an individual’s exceptional professional and personal contributions to students, the college and the community at large.

“Trustees were enthusiastic to recognize Jim’s extraordinary contributions to our community,” said College of Marin Superintendent/President David Wain Coon, Ed.D. “There was a strong consensus of faculty, staff, students, community members and our Board that Jim Dunn is uniquely deserving of this honor.”

For nearly 50 years, College of Marin students have studied with Dunn. He founded the College of Marin Drama Department in 1964, taught full time for 30 years and continues to teach on a part time basis. He served as chair of the drama department until 1994 and directed more than 250 plays. He continues to teach Shakespeare and direct spring productions at College of Marin.

Outside of the College, James Dunn was the artistic director of the Marin County Mountain Play for the 30 years.

“Jim was a wonderful bridge between the artistic development of the Mountain Play and College of Marin,” said Sara Pearson, executive director and producer at Mountain Play Association. “As the chair of the College’s theater department, he trained and worked with up and coming artists, many of whom went on to become part of the mainstay of the Mountain Play’s talent pool.”

There too, Dunn’s vision catapulted the once languishing company into a first class community resource.

“His vision gave the Mountain Play its character,” Pearson said. “We all credit Jim for giving the Mountain Play its naturally spectacular finesse.”

Dunn literally grew up on the College of Marin campus. His stepfather taught in the Engineering Department. Dunn attended San Rafael High School where he “worked on cars and chased girls,” but did not focus so much on grades. He signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17 and served two years in the Korean War. Upon returning home, he enrolled at College of Marin, eventually transferring to San Jose State where he earned his bachelor and his master degrees in drama. He was teaching at a high school when he heard the College was starting a drama department and he signed on to develop the curriculum for one of the first programs of its kind in the state.

“It was an exciting time,” Dunn recalled. “The College was growing like crazy.” Early on, the San Francisco Foundation helped fund a study of ancient Greek theater, which culminated in a production of Aeschylus’ The Oresteia.

A year later, Dunn’s Wild West production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew was invited to perform at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, earning the Best Production award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and giving a command performance before Princess Margaret and her family. “I’ve done every kind of play there is,” Dunn said.

“I’m still teaching Shakespeare. I love to take a 400-year old playwright and show them how it is still relevant and speaks to us today.”

Professional honors include six Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for Directing, the Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for Directing, the San Francisco Dramalogue Award for Directing, and a City of Mill Valley Arts Commission (2002) Milley Award. Dunn was nominated for the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Hayward Award for Excellence in Teaching and received an award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Marin County from the Marin County Cultural Society. He recently received a Life Achievement Directing Award from the San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle (2011).

A number of Dunn’s former students went on to achieve successful careers in acting, including Robin Williams, Kathleen Quinlan, and David Ogden Stiers among others.

For students considering College of Marin, Dunn is an enthusiastic cheerleader. In addition to his stepfather, his children have all attended College of Marin.

“The community college system is one of the finest systems ever developed in education,” Dunn said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if I didn’t go to College of Marin. It was a place that made my life work. There is no better place. It allows people who don’t have the funds or even the grades to go to school. I love to watch a commencement and see an 80-year-old great grandmother getting an AA degree with her whole family cheering or a student who came to the U.S. from Vietnam giving the commencement address in English. This is what we do here at College of Marin. We provide a place where people can work to achieve their dreams.”


This release was co-authored with COM and appears here.

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