The life of Harry McEnerny
Published: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Updated: Friday, July 29, 2011 15:07
It's 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. In the gallery, the Fine Arts Center seems rather deserted, but if you listen closely you'll hear counting. It's coming from the Casella Theatre. Inside you'll see a group of 10 students in a circle on stage doing push-ups. A 40-something-year-old man is slowly walking around the circle, his smile tinged with a hint of sadism and a dash of gratification.The group then stands up as this man recites different words in an Irish dialect, the group of students repeating each one. At first glance, one might assume this was a cult of some sort.
But this, in fact, is just another night at play rehearsal (not play practice) for students at Castleton State College, and the aforementioned "cult" leader is professor and Chair of the Theater department, Harry McEnerny IV.
The recent Faculty Fellow recipient has been a professor at CSC for 14 years, and is damn proud of it. But don't call what he does drama. One evening, he was in the kitchen chopping vegetables for dinner when an acquaintance referred to his department as one of drama rather than theatre.
He didn't like that.
"He stopped chopping vegetables immediately and slowly turned toward him," said Robynn Stanley, a junior at CSC who witnessed the event. McEnerny quietly and sternly suggested that the person not undermine something he's been working toward most of his life.
"I've never seen him that serious before. It was scary."
A DAY IN THE LIFE...
McEnerny, known to his students and colleagues alike as simply 'Harry,' resides in a quiet little suburb of Middlebury, Vt. It's a place where children ride by on their bicycles and moms can be seen power walking together in their running shoes. With him in the two-story house are his wife, Monica, and French Poodle named Corduroy. The kitchen walls are adorned with many of the awards and recognitions McEnerny has earned through the years.
The refrigerator includes magnets of Austin Powers, British Flags, "I Heart Poodles" and one of Einstein that has interchangeable outfits including a chicken costume, formal suit and astronaut costume.
His mornings consist of reading online news websites -- MSN, CNN, Burlington Free Press, and ESPN, to be exact -- while drinking a hot cup of half regular half decaf coffee. Why half regular, half decaf, you ask?
"I used to drink all regular coffee, and nobody needs to see me on all regular coffee. That's ugly."
After a quick shower, it's off to Castleton, "a 37-minute commute which is long enough for me to think about what my day's gonna be about, get mad about it, and get over it," he says.
When he arrives at school, he goes straight to his office in the lower level of the Fine Arts Center in the Costume Shop. On his office door, a poster of playwright Bertolt Brecht can be found, along with notes from students requesting his presence. Inside lies a large bookcase filled with numerous different plays or books about plays.
One wall acts as a giant chalk board, displaying various messages written by different students, phone numbers and a quote with bolded letters that scream "TAKE IT HARD OR NOT AT ALL!"
Other items in his office include a small statue of a frog playing a guitar, a row of Diet Dr. Pepper bottles and a framed picture of Bugs Bunny and Gossamer (the big, furry red monster) sitting at a table with Bugs' line "I always say, monsters are the most in-ter-esting people."
Above his desk is a large framed poster of his production of Jesus Christ Superstar, one of CSC's biggest productions to date. On his Mac computer, you can always count on the wallpaper consisting of a picture from his previous production. Right now, it's a picture of a scene from The Cripple of Inishmaan, which just ended its run on Nov. 14.
The opening act
Harry McEnerny IV was born in New Orleans, La. -- during a hurricane.
"Answers a lot of questions, doesn't it?" he says.
He grew up, however, in Chattanooga, Tenn. with two sisters, Kathleen and Allison. His third sister Maggie wasn't born until he was in high school. His dad worked in computer systems, while his mom worked at a non-profit.
McEnerny's first paying job was at an amusement park in North Georgia called Lake Winnepesaukah, now known as Lake Winnie, working in the "games department" coaxing passersby via microphone to play the game he was hosting.
"That might be one of the favorite jobs I've ever had because a lot of people had these shirts that said 'If you aint from Georgia, you aint shit.' And it didn't occur to them that if you take the negatives out of that sentence, you get 'If you're from Georgia, you're shit.' And this is what they're walking around the park wearing. I found that funny. They didn't get it."
A face that changed it all
Once upon a time in Ashland, Va. Harry McEnerny saw this amazing face. He vividly remembers the time and place when he met the love of his life, Monica. It was at Randolph-Macon, the college they both attended. He was hanging out in his friend Judy's room one day when her suitemate Monica came in, looking for her roommate, and left.
"After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked 'who was that?' She was wearing a purple shirt at the time. It looked like ribbons. Like she was wrapped."
Monica remembers the encounter too.
"He was pretty loud and obnoxious so I got to know him pretty quickly," Monica says.
"It was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship," Harry says.
He was sitting in his first political science class a few days later when Monica walked in and sat in front of him. Harry didn't do well in that class.
Harry and Monica's ideas of their first date differ, however. If you ask Monica, their first dates were nights spent in the school's library, playing Spades. Those nights included one when they had their first kiss in the stairway of a dorm. It was the same night Harry stole Monica's notebook and ran out into the rain with her chasing him.