Professor brought arts to life

LORETTO – St. Francis University’s longtime theater director and assistant drama professor, Kenneth Resinski, may have dressed in all black, but he brought a special light to the stage and many said he will be sadly missed.

Resinski, 72, originally of Philadelphia, died Sunday night from complications after heart surgery. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and three children, Rachel, Rebecca and Murray.

At St. Francis, there are no theater majors, said Visual Arts Professor and Fine Arts Chairman Chuck Olson. So the goal, he said, is to convince accounting, nursing and education majors “that you can have a life in the arts while you’re doing the thing you’re being trained to do.

“I learned a bit of that, certainly, from Kenny,” Olson said.

Resinski came to St. Francis in 1967 after graduating from Villanova University in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in English, and again in 1965 with a master’s degree in theater.

According to a university press release, Resinski directed more than 200 plays in his 46-year career with S.T.A.R. productions – which stands for students, teachers and area residents – and with Cresson Lake Playhouse, which he cofounded.

Anita Baumann, alumni relations director and one of Resinski’s former students, said although he and Cresson Lake parted ways years earlier over artistic differences, directors saw fit to induct him into their Hall of Fame in 2012.

“People realized that theater on this mountain top has to do, a lot, with Kenny Resinski,” she said. “He loved art. He loved making art. He loved teaching students how to perform. … There are people who will tell you that Kenny Resinski changed their life.”

And not all those people were his students.

Martha O’Brien, music professor and associate general education dean, said having her office next to Resinski’s for many years allowed the two to have great conversations about their common passions in each other’s vocations.

“Just as he was interested in music … I am interested in theater. I was in several of his productions over the years,” she said, including his last: A small readers’ theater in November.

It’s a special memory she said she will always carry.

Provost Wayne Powel said Resinski was such a campus fixture, in fact, that trying to think about the theater program’s future without him is difficult.

“Kenny put on performances that were thought-provoking and challenging,” he said. “You would never see Kenny put on ‘Oklahoma!'”

Resinski, often helped by his wife and costume designer, Bonnie, was a one-man program for more than 40 years, Powel said, in a department that usually requires two or three professors to run.

In that time, he also generated a lot of attention for not only his work and work ethic, but his reputation as one of the toughest professors on campus and, of course, his all-black attire.

In a 1993 interview with then-student Ric Thayer, Resinski explained his style:

“I prefer to dress in black. Someone said we are in mourning for the loss of joy in the world. Everybody else wears brighter colors and they are not having a good time,” he said. “So, by wearing black, I’m having a very good time. It is a color that kind of joins everybody together, having a very good time.”

Olson said Resinski also understood the elevating effect theater could have, recalling a time when Resinski was directing “Macbeth,” and cast a football player, with a thick New Jersey accent who threw a “yo” or two into the script, in a main role.

When asked why he cast him, Olson said Resinski told him the football player needed a push to perform.

“He can play football,” Olson said Resinski told him. “He has the courage to play football. But he didn’t have the courage to walk out on stage.”

Olson said Resinski’s compelling, priest-like devotion to the program will require the university think about how to honor Resinski.

“We need to gather all those in, at this tragedy and loss of him, to regroup and make a legacy now for him. That’s our duty,” he said.

Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, family members request that gifts be given to the Dorothy Day Center at: St. Francis University, Office of Advancement, P.O. Box 600, Loretto, PA 15940. Attn: Kenny Resinski Memorial.