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Eva Marie Saint returns to BGSU for theater dedication

BOWLING GREEN, O.-Serenaded by current members of her sorority, actress and Bowling Green State University alumna Eva Marie Saint once again played the "leading lady" when she returned to campus Oct. 13 and 14 for the dedication of a new theater named in her honor.

She and her husband, producer/director Jeffrey Hayden, celebrated the relocation of the theater from University Hall, where she began her acting career as a student, to BGSU's new Wolfe Center for the Arts.

Cast members from two BGSU productions, "The Seagull" and "Arabian Nights" talked with Saint and Hayden in the Eva Marie Saint Theatre, hearing stories and advice from the couple. The students presented Saint with a bouquet and glass paperweight to commemorate her visit as theater faculty Drs. Ron Shields and Jonathan Chambers looked on.

After the dedication ceremony, held in the larger Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre, Delta Gamma members sang and presented her another bouquet, of white roses. She invited them to join her in her new theater, where a full house had gathered and were again treated to conversation with Saint and Hayden.

Also at the dedication were President Mary Ellen Mazey and first-year theater major Natalie Golz of Rocky River, recipient of this year's Eva Marie Saint Scholarship; and Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards and his wife, Nadine, along with a number of current and former faculty members.

Saint later attended the BGSU-Miami football game that day, accompanied by theater and film students and Arts and Sciences Dean Simon Morgan-Russell.

During the weekend visit, she also took part in a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the film careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, on Oct. 14 - Lillian Gish's birthday - in the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater and Gallery, where Saint spoke about her memories of the iconic actresses and the lessons she learned from her, including to "never wear bangs." It was Gish who advised her that, in show business, it was necessary to have a spine of steel while appearing to remain vulnerable, she said.

James Frasher, longtime manager of Lillian Gish, presented the Gishes' 1912 debut film, "An Unseen Enemy" and the only recorded film version of "Lillian Gish and the Movies"(1975), the program in which Frasher toured with Lillian Gish throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. Seen by curator Dr. Ralph Haven Wolfe in 1975, the program inspired him to make the Gish Film Theater a reality at BGSU in 1976. Saint starred with Lillian Gish in the 1953 television production of "The Trip to Bountiful." She and Gish reprised their roles on Broadway the following year, earning Saint the Drama Critics Award and the Outer-Circle Critics Award. and

Mayor Edwards proclaimed Oct. 13 Eva Marie Saint Day and Oct. 14 Lillian Gish Day in the city. BGSU presented Saint the Distinguished Alumna Award in 1960 and an honorary doctorate of performing arts in 1982.

Saint has had a distinguished career on stage and television and in film, appearing in more than 161 productions and performing with actors such as Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lillian Gish, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Cary Grant; and directors Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, Norman Jewison, Otto Preminger and Fred Zinneman.

Her many honors include an Academy Award for "On the Waterfront" and a 1990 Emmy for her role in "People Like Us." She received three more nominations for her work in television, and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Still active in acting, she will be soon begin production of "Winter's Tale," co-starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay ("Downton Abbey"), William Hurt, Russell Crowe and Will Smith.

After their 1982 visit, Saint and Hayden, who was presented an honorary doctor of arts from BGSU in 1991 when he showed his documentary "Primary Colors," on Sr. Corita Kent, returned again to campus in 2001 to perform in A.R. Gurney's two-character play "Love Letters" as a benefit for her scholarship fund and to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Gish Film Theater.

They returned in 2007 to present "On the Divide: An Afternoon with Willa Cather," also to benefit the scholarship and in honor of the late Dr. Elden Smith, who is credited with inspiring her to pursue acting.

Saint, who followed her older sister to BGSU, was majoring in elementary education when her Delta Gamma sorority adviser urged her to try out for the play "Personal Appearance." As the story goes, Smith-who was the sorority adviser's husband-needed a girl who looked like an actress. Saint, the Skol Sweater Swing Queen, Pi Kappa Alpha Dream Girl, The Key Beauty Queen and May Queen, won the part. She enrolled in one of Smith's introductory theatre courses, auditioned for other plays and switched her major to theatre.

Hayden's credits include some of television's most successful comedies, including the Andy Griffith and Donna Reed shows, plus numerous dramas including "Route 66," "Mannix" and "Peyton Place." He has received awards for his documentaries, including the PBS production "Children in America's Schools with Bill Moyers." He is also a prolific theater director, with productions in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.