The Bossier Arts Council’s East Bank Theatre will be the setting for a one-night-only event on Saturday, June 17 celebrating the life and work of local dance and theatre legend, Ginger Folmer ‘64, professor emerita of dance at Centenary. The conversation with Folmer will be hosted by her former student Erik Champney ‘11, a playwright and film director now based in New York City. Tickets for “One More Time: A Life of Dance and Theatre with Ginger Darnell Folmer” are $15 and are available online.
Seva May is presenting the unique event which will serve as a fundraiser for The Company Repertory Theatre, founded by Folmer’s late husband, Richard. May and Champney collaborated on an autobiographical revue at the Shreveport Little Theatre in 2022 that told May’s story through monologue and song, an event that served as an inspiration for the evening celebrating Folmer’s life growing up in dance.
“Seva and I created an evening that sought to understand what theatre is and why it can be a possessive force in one’s life – and the lives of the people audiences can’t see, be that the tech crew, designers, directors, family, friends, and the sacrifices artists make to work and work to get it right,” explained Champney. “Seva and I enjoyed warmth and ovations during our time at Shreveport Little Theatre, and it got the two of us thinking: could we convince Ginger to tell her story, candidly, without walls or barriers? I proposed to Ginger an event framed similarly to what James Lipton did so perfectly with Inside the Actors Studio. Something as simple as she and I sitting down together, casually, and telling her story. And what a story!”
Ginger Darnell Folmer was born and raised in Shreveport and started dancing as soon as she could walk at her maternal aunt’s dance school, Westbrook School of Dance. By the age of 12, she was teaching dance classes at the school, beginning a long and distinguished career in dance performance, education, and choreography. After earning a BA in theatre and speech with a minor in English and a secondary teaching certification from Centenary, Folmer received a graduate assistantship from Syracuse University to pursue a master’s degree in theatre. At Syracuse, she taught acting and choreographed productions for the theatre department, and met and fell in love with her husband, Richard Folmer, who was also pursuing a master’s degree in theatre.
Ginger and Richard were married in 1965 and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Richard entered the PhD program at Wayne State University. Ginger taught in the public school system and at several private dance studios on the weekends, and also finished her master’s degree in theatre from Syracuse. During the summers, both Folmers worked in professional theaters in Michigan. In 1968, they moved to New York City to further Richard’s acting career, which eventually included several off-Broadway productions and national tours of Fiddler on the Roof and Zorba. During the same time, Ginger had the opportunity to choreograph a few off-Broadway shows for director Marshall Oglesby, a Centenary College classmate. Her dance background and choreography credits attracted the attention of Fiddler on the Roof assistant director Steven Bohm, who eventually hired Ginger as assistant choreographer for a production of Fiddler in Indianapolis as well as two subsequent productions in Los Angeles.
During Richard’s national tour of Zorba, Ginger returned to Shreveport with the couple’s young son and stayed with her maternal grandmother. She met Robert Buseick, chair of the Centenary College theatre department, and he hired her to choreograph summer musicals at the College’s Marjorie Lyons Playhouse. In 1975, Buseick raised the money to hire a dance teacher at Centenary and convinced Ginger to take the job. From 1975 through June 2008, she taught generations of dance and theatre students dance technique, acting movement, dance history, and choreography. She established the College’s BA degree in dance and founded the Escaped Images Dance Company that performed in numerous Regional Dance America College Dance Festivals and was honored to have a piece selected for performance in the National Festival, the highest honor a college dance program can receive. Upon retirement from Centenary, Folmer was awarded the status of Professor Emerita.
Champney studied dance with Folmer at Centenary as part of his theatre training and was profoundly influenced by her legacy of what he calls “the best kind of stubbornness.” He hopes that the “One More Time” event will be a joyous celebration of that legacy, but noted that both he and Folmer want the event to serve a longer-term purpose. That’s why all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to The Company Repertory Theatre founded by her late husband, Richard, in an effort to highlight the group and encourage them to continue his legacy in the Shreveport-Bossier City theatre community.
“There was a time in Shreveport/Bossier when local celebrities consisted primarily of theatre artists. The respect and adoration bestowed on them by the community was contagious and exciting,” said Champney. “That’s what has been calling me back to my hometown. I want to do more than celebrate careers and successes of people I admire. I want to understand what the people who’ve enchanted my life had to do, had to sacrifice, to be forces of nature.”
Champney, who followed his undergraduate degree at Centenary with a master’s degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and has enjoyed a string of critical successes as a writer and director, believes that Ginger Folmer’s teachings and encouragement empowered him to overcome limitations and thrive as an artist.
“I have a muscle deficiency in my legs, which causes them to contract,” shared Champney. “Through Ginger’s teachings, I learned ballet stretches are the best tactic to straighten my legs. It didn’t make my disability go away, but it helped me in learning how to live as productively as possible despite it. Ginger fought for her students to push our bodies beyond what we believed possible. She fought with kindness, patience, and faith. I do barre stretches every day on my kitchen counter, and I hear her voice reaching from the past, guiding me, each time I go through it.”
Champney hopes that the special event will highlight Folmer’s legacy and her impact on generations of students and colleagues.
“Ginger’s legacy is one of stubbornness, the best kind,” said Champney. “Do the best work for yourself and you’ll benefit from the best rewards. Ginger teaches strength. That strength now runs through the veins of countless people whose lives she’s affected. Do you want to be good enough or do you want to be good? That’s not as simple a sentiment as it sounds. ‘Good enough’ means not reaching full potential. If there’s anything Ginger excels in, its showing us there’s more than meets the eye, in body, mind and soul.”
For more information about the event “One More Time: A Life of Dance and Theatre with Ginger Darnell Folmer at the East Bank Theatre,” visit the event on Facebook.