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Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

Remembering Phylis Ravel

Her Death is a Loss to Milwaukee Theater

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Phylis Ravel’s death from cancer on Nov. 6 at Mequon’s Horizon Hospice marks an irreplaceable loss. Almost single-handedly she created the Marquette University Theatre Department, gathering the current faculty and forging a vision of artistic excellence and levelheaded career training. She fought wisely on behalf of students before and after graduation, helping an astonishing number to successful, even stellar, careers in theatre, film and television.  She set an example of devotion to the highest values in her professional life.  She was also a loving friend, funny, kind, challenging, nurturing.

As a stage director, Phylis had a genius for uncovering power in scripts that looked weak on the page and for inspiring performances of dimension from students. She was an award winning, risk-taking playwright and a wonderful actor, great fun to play against because gave everything. She knew she was dying when she created her last work in August at Danceworks, an achingly beautiful movement-theatre piece with the choreographer Andrea Hill Johnson and the actress Alexandra Bonesho called Let Me Hear Your Voice.  The title summarizes her teaching philosophy and approach to others.

Phylis continued to teach and plan productions almost to the week of her death.   She was a model of courage, less concerned for herself than that those in her care should not suffer at her passing.  Her husband David described her death as “gentle, light.”   Marquette has established a fund in her name:  The Phylis Ravel Theatre and Social Justice Fund.  A January memorial service is planned.