Yellow Springs and The Arts

A sampling of people in the arts that came from or through Yellow Springs, Ohio

The Yellow Springs DRAMA - ACTING & DIRECTING: [back to main index] The Yellow Springs

This is a work in progress. This is not intended to be a complete listing, but a reasonable representation of major contributors to the arts community who were also residents of the town. Please email any corrections, updates, additions, or suggestions to Tim Eschliman at

Meredith Dallas (theatrical director & actor, YSO resident, Professor of Theater Emeritus of Antioch College)

Meredith Dallas

Photo courtesy of
*Irwin Inman
The central figure for theater and drama in Yellow Springs for many years, Meredith Dallas was a Professor of Drama and ran the Antioch Area Theater. He performed in dozens of Shakespeare productions over years, some he directed, and some were directed by Arthur Lithgow (see below), father of actor John Lithgow. Meredith, known to the locals as "Dal," tackled the acting roles of many of the great Shakespeare characters, like King Henry, Hamlet, Sampson, Marc Antony, Duke of Exeter, Malvolio, Macduff, and King Richard.

info courtesy of Scott Sanders at Antiochiana

Arthur W. Lithgow (director, Antioch faculty)

Arthur W. Lithgow

Photo courtesy of
Arthur Lithgow Papers
Arthur W. Lithgow was born on 9 September 1915 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to Arthur Washington and Ina Berenice Lithgow. He received his B.A. from Antioch College in 1938 and his M.A. from Cornell University in 1948. On 13 January 1939 he married Sarah Jane Price. They have 4 children: 2 sons and 2 daughters.

Lithgow first performed as a cherub in a Christmas pageant at the Unitarian Church in Melrose Massachusetts in December of 1920. He also appeared in student productions at Antioch College and made his New York debut as a soldier in Lorelei (Nov. 29, 1938). But his career focus has been on the teaching and directing of drama, particularly Shakespearian drama, and it is in this forum that he has left his stamp.

He first began directing Shakespeare at Antioch College in 1952, when he became the Founder and Artistic Director of the Antioch Shakespeare Festival, or "Shakespeare under the Stars" as it came to be known. Within a period of six years, this festival produced all of the works of Shakespeare, bringing the attention and praise of even the Queen of England.

From Antioch, he began to expand his scope to include other areas of Ohio, directing simultaneously summer seasons in Toledo and Antioch. In 1958 he moved to Northern Ohio as Executive Director of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron Ohio. In 1960 he established the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Lakewood Ohio. In 1961, he moved to New Jersey to become the Artistic and Producing Director of the McCarter Theatre of Princeton University. he stayed there until 1972 when he moved to Boston as a Visiting Professor at the University of Massachusetts.

From 1974-75 he was the Administrator and Director of the Brattleboro Center for the Performing Arts, Brattleboro, Vermont. And in 1976 he became a Visiting Associate Professor of the Theatre Arts at the University of South Florida at Tampa. While there he began directing the Alice People Theatre. He returned to Antioch College to direct two summer Shakespeare festivals in 1981 and 1982. From 1982 to 1984 he taught at Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio.

Although retired now and residing in Ithaca, New York, Lithgow still occasionally teaches and directs. Most recently, along with former Cornell University classmate Edward Kamarck, he founded the Ithaca Theater Guild.

-- excerpts courtesy of Arthur Lithgow Papers, Kent State University Libraries (with permission)
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Dave Chappelle (actor, comedian, YSO middle school alumni)

Dave Chappelle

Photo courtesy of
"This rising black comedian of TV and films proved impressive as the comic who is the butt of Eddie Murphy's wrath in "The Nutty Professor" (1996). The son of a Unitarian minister, Dave Chappelle began performing in comedy clubs in his native Washington, DC, as a teenager. Over the next several years, he persevered to become a hit in clubs on the East Coast. Chappelle broke into features in the uneven Mel Brooks' spoof "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" But it was his turn in "The Nutty Professor" that clinched his screen viability. He went on to a featured role as a wisecracking convict in the box-office success "Con Air" (1997) and was teamed with Tommy Davidson in "Woo" (1998). In an attempt to pay homage to Cheech and Chong, Chappelle wrote and starred in the marijuana comedy "Half Baked" (also 1998). He is developing a dream project in which he plans to star: a biopic of his friend and mentor Charles Barnett, a street comedian who died of complications from AIDS.

DAVID CHAPPELLE (Kevin Scanlon) has, at the age of 25, compiled an impressive list of accomplishments. He's had memorable roles as the obnoxious comedian Reggie Warrington in the hit comedy The Nutty Professor; the ill-fated convict Pinball Parker in Con Air; and made his feature film debut in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men In Tights. He most recently starred in comedy cult film Half Baked, which he also co-wrote.

Dave is one of Howard Stern's favorite comedians and is always a guest when he's in New York. Chappelle is a regular on many late-night couches , including "Letterman," "Conan O'Brien" and "Politically Incorrect." Earlier this year, Chappelle also starred in his own HBO comedy special.

-- excerpts courtesy of and Warner Brothers
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Ken Jenkins (actor, Antioch alumnus)

Ken Jenkins
Ken Jenkins (Dr. Bob Kelso in the TV series, Scrubs): A versatile veteran of film, television and theater. He began his acting career performing in high school stage productions in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio. "I was never particularly athletic in high school, so I distinguished myself through acting," says Jenkins. "As a teenager, I discovered a love for acting that defined me for the rest of my life." Jenkins went on to study acting at Antioch College, and performed on Broadway and in regional theater throughout his college years. In 1967, he co-founded and served for three years as associate artistic director for the prestigious Actor's Theatre of Louisville, which became a breeding ground for some of America's best new playwrights, including Beth Henley and Marsha Norman. Jenkins continued to work with the theater as an actor, director and writer through 1983.

Over more than 30 years as an actor, Jenkins has been associated with an average of 10 plays a year as an actor, director or playwright. He has portrayed both Hamlet and Cyrano, and performed in other classics by Shakespeare, as well as those by Shaw and Ibsen. One of his favorite moments as an actor, however, was performing opposite his son, actor Danny Jenkins, in the 1985 Broadway musical "Big River." In 1987, Jenkins appeared in John Sayles' critically acclaimed feature film "Matewan," which opened the actor to the joy of working in film. His other big-screen credits include "The Abyss," "Air America," "Last Man Standing" and "Courage Under Fire." He will also appear in the upcoming feature film "I Am Sam," which stars Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Jenkins' additional television credits include a co-starring role for two seasons in the 1992 drama "Homefront," in addition to guest-starring roles on "The X-Files," "Family Law," and "Chicago Hope." He also starred in the television movies "Thirst" (on NBC), "And the Band Played On" and "Hiroshima."

-- excerpts courtesy of
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John Lithgow (actor, former YSO resident)

John Lithgow

Photo courtesy of
John Lithgow has won enormous critical acclaim, as well as two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, American Comedy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his starring role in NBC's hit comedy series 3rd Rock From the Sun. Produced by Carsey-Werner, the show has enjoyed consistently high ratings since its premiere and was the first hit of the 1995-96 television season. Lithgow plays the commander of a group of four aliens who have come to study Earth. Although it was his 1982 Academy Award-nominated portrayal of Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp* that first brought Lithgow national attention, the actor has been refining his craft in films, television and theater for over 20 years.

From his Tony Award-winning Broadway debut in The Changing Room to his performance in the Tony-winning M. Butterfly, from his psychopathic murderer in Brian DePalma's Blow Out* to his panic-stricken airline passenger in George Miller's segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Lithgow has consistently demonstrated tremendous depth and range. Lithgow recently completed production on Johnny Skidmarks for Cinepix Film Properties, with Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher.

Lithgow's other film credits include Cliffhanger*, Bruce Beresford's A Good Man in Africa, Memphis Belle*, Silent Fall, Brian De Palma's Obsession and Raising Cain*, Princess Caraboo, The Pelican Brief*, Ricochet*, Footloose*, The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai, Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, 2010, The Manhattan Project*, Distant Thunder, and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. He won a second Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Debra Winger's lover in the Oscar-winning Terms of Endearment*.

Lithgow earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in the highly-charged 1983 television movie The Day After, and won the Emmy in 1987 for his portrayal of 'John Waters' in an episode of Amazing Stories. He was nominated for another Emmy that year for portraying 'Major Kendall Laird' in The Resting Place, a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. Lithgow received a CableACE nomination for his work in the 1989 HBO telefilm Traveling Man. Lithgow was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor as well as a Drama Desk award for his performance in Requiem for a Heavyweight.

-- excerpts courtesy of Filmbug
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Daniel Jenkins (actor, former YSO resident)

Daniel Jenkins

Photo courtesy of
"Big" The Musical
Daniel Jenkins starred in the role of Huck Finn in Big River (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) which opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Broadway in New York City. The Tony Award-winning score for the show was written by Roger Miller (his first Broadway production). The show, about life on the Mississippi, ran for 1,005 performances and won the Tony for Best Musical of the Year. Big River picked up several more Tony Awards: Featured Actor in a Musical to Ron Richardson; Best Director (Musical) to Des McAnuff; Best Book (Musical) to William Hauptman; and Best Scenic Designer and Lighting Designer to Heidi Landesman and Richard Riddell respectively.

Other New York credits include Making It Big, Triumph of Love (Young Playwrights), Johnny in Johnny Pye and Feast Here Tonight, which he composed to his father Ken Jenkins' book. He has worked at several regional theatres including La Jolla Playhouse, Kennedy Center and Actors Theatre of Louisville, where he was an apprentice. Favorite regional credits: title roles in both Fortinbras by Lee Blessing and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by Lisa Peterson. Daniel spent five summers at Sundance Institutes's Play Lab where he has been privileged to indulge in his commitment to new works. He has appeared in the films In Country and Five Corners, Robert Altman's O.C. and Stiggs as O.C., Willie Keith in Caine Mutiny and Stringer in Gary Trudeau's Tanner '88. On TV he has been seen as Alex on ABC's "Going to Extremes."

-- excerpts courtesy of What Happened All Those Years Ago and Unofficial "Making It Big" (Musical) page
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Nancy Meckler (director of theater & films, former YSO resident)

Nancy Meckler

Photo courtesy of
Locarno Film Festival
Born in the United States, Nancy Meckler studied in England at London's Academy of Music and Drama. She has produced and stage numerous plays, both contemporary and classic, which have toured throughout Europe and the United States. Made in 1994, Sister My Sister won several festival awards. The film relates the story of the infamous Papin sisters, who savagely murdered their mistress for no clear reasons. This incident inspired both the situationists as well as Jean Genêt, who based his play, The Maids, on it. The setting: a small provincial city in the thirties. Madam Danzard and her daughter Isabelle lead perfectly respectable lives. Their two servants, Christine and Lea, are sisters and the envy of the Danzards' neighbors for their perfect bearing and attention to duty. This perfect bourgeois existence is not quite what it seems, however. The atmosphere in the houses becomes increasingly claustrophobic, fuelled by Mme Danzard's uneasy awareness that the close relationship between her two maids has taken on a new dimension. But is beyond even her imagination to understand the sexual fever that now exists between the two girls. As tension between the four women reaches a breaking point, an act of shocking violence erupts, catapulting the complacent little town into the limelight, and assuring the Danzard household a place in history. About her new film, Nancy Meckler has this to say: "Indian Summer attracts me because it's life-fulfilling with this intense relationship at its heart. The characters are full of humor, energy and fire, but increasingly aware of their mortality. It is a tender, funny and passionate story of a gay dancer living positively with AIDS, while discovering the importance of love for his life and survival."

Nancy Meckler became Artistic Director of Shared Experience Theatre in 1987. Her work for the company includes the multi-award winning productions Anna Karenina and Mill On The Floss. She recently directed Olympia Dukakis in Martin Sherman's new play Rose at the Royal National Theatre.

Nancy has also directed the features film: Alive and Kicking (Audience Award at the London film Festival 1996). In spring 2000 Nancy directed Kathryn Hunter in Lee Hall's new translation of Mother Courage and Her Children.

-- excerpts courtesy of Locarno Film Festival Archives and Director's Guild of Great Britain
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John Fleming (director, choreographer, performer and teacher, YSO resident)

John Fleming

Photo courtesy of
Ohio Arts Council
John founded the YS Kids Playhouse in 1995. As a director, choreographer, performer and teacher his career spans over two decades of artistic activity in the theater. He remains associated with the New York based Ping Chong & Company and the 0trabanda Company. Since 1995, he has been on the staff of the Antioch Area Theater Antioch College. He is an associate artist with the Ohio Arts Council Arts in Education Program. Awards include Minnesota Playwrights Center 'Other Voices,' Culture Works of Dayton Special projects Award and a co-recipient of a TCG Playwriting Award. As a performer he has been seen at the Edinborough Festival, Japan's Toga Festival, the Veniced Carnivale, the Montreal International Theater Festival, the BITEF Festival in Belgrade, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro in Bogota. A native of New Orleans, he currently resides in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

-- excerpts courtesy of YS Kids Playhouse (with permission)
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Special thanks to: Nicholas Q Dewey, Rebecca Eschliman, The Yellow Springs News, Scott Sanders and Antiochiana, and Tony Dallas

For an overview of Yellow Springs Ohio history from 1803 to 2003, see the Yellow Springs News.

For info on the YSO Bicentennial (July 4, 2003) and YSO background info, see The Yellow Springs Historical Society.

*Irwin Inman photos from the book, "Yellow Springs and Beyond" (Wild Goose Press)

Please email any corrections, updates, additions, or suggestions to Tim Eschliman at

-- Page last updated April 20 2013