Western Carolina University’s celebration of the late Josefina Niggli’s life and contributions to the WCU community and beyond will kick off a semester of events with a performance in Niggli Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28.
The show, which is free and open to the public, will introduce Niggli to people who did not take a class with her or work with her on a production in what was the Little Theatre on campus and is now named Niggli Theatre.
Niggli, who was born in Mexico, was an accomplished poet, novelist, playwright and screenwriter. A collection of her folktales, titled “Mexican Village” and published in 1945, was adapted into a major motion picture titled “Sombrero,” which she co-wrote and which starred Ricardo Montalban. She joined WCU in 1955 as a journalism instructor and director of drama, and during her 20-year career at the university was a beloved, respected teacher and colleague. For the 2009-10 academic year, the Office for Undergraduate Studies is coordinating an organized, campuswide recognition of Niggli’s contributions.
“We will attempt to create a show that Miss Niggli would be proud of and one fitting of the respect and love that all of her former students and admirers have for her,” said the show’s writer Steve Carlisle, one of Niggli’s former students and the associate dean of the Honors College.
Although Carlisle is keeping details of the show secret, he did reveal the production will be “multimedia, drama, comedy” and will “cover her career and stages of her professional life.”
The production commemorating the 100th anniversary of Niggli’s birth is first in a series of celebration events this semester.
Hunter Library will host a display beginning in January featuring copies of Niggli’s manuscripts and personal effects, and posters depicting stages of her life and her progression as an author, playwright and instructor at WCU. The display will continue through December.
“Sombrero,” the film adaptation of Niggli’s “Mexican Village,” will be screened in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center on March 10.
Also in March, Elizabeth Martinez, who published a biography of Niggli in 2007, is scheduled to present at WCU as part of the Women Who Dare! Interdisciplinary Speaker/Workshop Series.
Other events will include a Niggli portrait exhibit, and a performance and reunion in July of Niggli’s students.
For more information, visit WCU’s Niggli Celebration Web site at http://niggli.wcu.edu.
This story is by Bobby Willover, a WCU undergraduate student serving on the Niggli celebration committee.