Anne Negri Lewinthal ’03 to receive honorary degree Sunday

Ripon College will honor one of our own at the 2022 Commencement May 15. In celebration of the theme “The Stories We Tell: Connecting to Our Community through Theatre,” Anne Negri Lewinthal ’03 of Skokie, Illinois, will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Lewinthal is a drama specialist in District 65 Evanston-Skokie (Illinois) Public Schools and has written several plays for young audiences. “With Two Wings,” published by Dramatic Publishing, received the 2014 American Alliance for Theatre and Education Distinguished Play Award, the 2010 Kennedy Center ACTF-Theatre for Young Audiences Award, was a finalist in the Bonderman Playwriting for Youth Symposium, and has been produced nationally and internationally (Japan and Taiwan).

Other plays include: “Maddie’s Fridge,” “Girls Who Wear Glasses,” “Cave Boys,” “The JunGirl Book,” “Robyn Hood, Not a Test,” “Oz: The Land That Time Forgot,” “The Transfer Student,” and “The Dancing Dog!” Two of her 10-minute plays are published by YouthPLAYS: “The Case of the Missing Rooster” and “A Portal to Fairytale Kingdom.”

In 2020, Lewinthal received the Illinois Theatre Association’s Award of Excellence in Creative Drama.

She says sharing stories with young people is vital. “Sometimes, in the stories we tell young people, it is the first time they’ve ever thought about that idea. Our job as theatre creators, writers and thinkers is to give them hope. That’s one of the wonderful things about children’s theater. The goal is always to see that light and to see hope in that story.”

She says her stories are a lot of different topics from different sources — from her own imagination and adaptations of existing sources such as folk tales and fairy tales.

“The story has to have something about it that makes me curious and makes me ask questions,” she says. “When I work on that play and we share it with other people, there has to be something in the story that has a question to be asked and explored, not just something to sit and watch.

“Theatre is a communal experience. The stories we tell have the big questions and tackle the big challenges in life. It makes us feel like we’re not alone. There is that hope that we can figure things out and work with others, and a story can inspire us in real life.”

Lewinthal is originally from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and came to Ripon because of the opportunity to major in theatre and French and also participate in forensics. During a children’s theatre class with Professor Emeritus of Theatre Ken Hill, she experienced a pivotal moment to enhance her lifelong love of theatre.

She later received a master of fine arts in theatre for youths from Arizona State University.

Ripon provided many such moments, she says. “I stayed an additional year to get my education license because you could get certified to teach whatever you had majored in. It was another moment. I didn’t think I needed a teaching degree, but I thought I’ll just do it to have it in my back pocket.”

But that changed the course of her life. Now, she says, “I am a teacher. I am a drama teacher. There was that journey of discovering myself. I discovered playwriting, I discovered education. It all started at Ripon.”

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