By Henry Giattina ’21
Navigating the long stairways and tall stage of Johns Auditorium is no small feat when doing so in a wheelchair, unless you’re Barger Barclay Professor of Theatre Shirley Kagan, who has fought arduously to overcome this and other recent physical challenges. Moving into her 22 nd year at Hampden-Sydney, Kagan recently suffered a life-threatening stroke, one that kills 70 percent of its victims and leaves many of the remaining either deaf or blind. Kagan defied these statistics, however; she not only survived the stroke, but has successfully managed—in a wheelchair—to reconstruct one of England’s newest hit comedies, One Man, Two Guvnors, on the Hampden-Sydney stage.
“Even with the challenges I am facing, I get the gift, daily, to go in and make a difference,” says the director, whose road to triumph has been rooted, in part, in Hampden-Sydney’s student body. “Teamwork,” she explains, “is the secret sauce to becoming a true Hampden-Sydney gentleman.” Teamwork seems a fitting description for the way her students have supported Kagan through this challenge, as our student body has given what she considers “a purpose to come to work every morning that is sustaining and gratifying on the deepest level.”