Bringing life to about 70 productions during her nearly 30 years at Tusculum University, Marilyn duBrisk has inspired students, children and community members to pursue their interest in the stage and spread joy to thousands who have sat in the audience.
As artist-in-residence, she has also been a positive force in the community, bringing her love of the arts to schools and working closely with children in a special group at Tusculum to build their performance skills.
This semester, duBrisk takes her final bow and exits the stage into retirement, handing off the leadership of Tusculum’s successful programs to Wayne Thomas, dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts. He receives help from Brian Ricker, assistant director of TusculumArts Outreach, and other members of the team, until a successor is named.
“It has been a joyful and rewarding experience to be entrusted with Tusculum’s arts program, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead it,” duBrisk said. “I have been fortunate to team with our talented performers, dedicated behind-the-scenes personnel and exceptional staff members. They will partner with Wayne to continue this exceptional program, bring joy to audiences and further enrich the community’s quality of life.”
Thomas commended duBrisk for her commitment and enthusiasm.
“Bravo to Marilyn, who has represented Tusculum and the arts with grace and honor and has developed a marvelous program we are excited to continue,” he said. “People of all ages in our region have benefited from her passion for the arts and her outstanding work to grow our program. We will always remember her fondly and wish her Godspeed as she and her beloved husband Wess enjoy a more leisurely pace.”
Originally from Scotland, duBrisk also lived in Central East Africa before attending college in London. She later took a teaching job in Germany, where she met Wess, and then moved around with him while he continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force.
The duBrisks came to Greene County in 1984 when Wess became director of mass communications at Tusculum. She became artist-in-residence for the Greeneville school system and stayed there until 1991, when she accepted the same position at Tusculum. In her early years in the region, she sponsored a program to provide books for infants, a predecessor to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
DuBrisk is also particularly proud of her work with GLAWPIGT, an acronym for Great Literature Alive Well Playing in Greeneville, Tennessee. This is a group for students in grades three through 12 who meet at Tusculum to study performance and inspire other students to find excitement and interest in reading, she said. A major highlight for the group was its performance in 1998 for the National Council for the Arts in Washington.
The Tusculum arts program has also provided extensive outreach to the community with duBrisk as director. In addition to its work with teachers in local school systems, the university has one of the most extensive costume shops in the region. Tusculum has shared costumes with local schools, community arts groups and theaters as well as provided guidance to those in need.
Those costumes have also been on display in performances at the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Center Theatre and the Behan Theatre. When duBrisk reflects on all the productions, she thinks of the uniqueness of every child she has directed and the bond the cast develops through the weeks they spend preparing for the curtain to rise. But she said no show stands out above the others.
Now after decades of bringing delight to audiences and shaping students and adults in the performing arts, she will have time for other pursuits. She said people might still see her in a theater somewhere sometime. Whatever direction her life heads, Dr. Greg Nelson, Tusculum’s acting president, said duBrisk has left indelible footprints on the university’s program.