February 28, 2019
In February, Anderson University’s Belk Theater transformed into a little Hungarian town, the site of a quirky love story circa 1930.
And it was Dr. Deborah McEniry, chair of the Theatre Department at the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University, who waved her wand—one final time—to make it happen.
Dr. McEniry produced and directed a student performance of “She Loves Me,” a “quirky, fun musical about love and the intricacies of love.”
“You could be in love with a person and not even know it. You could be in the room with someone and quarrelling with them nonstop—which is what George and Amalia do until they find out this is the person I’ve been sending the letters to!” Dr. McEniry said.
It was a bittersweet production. After 12 years, Dr. McEniry is retiring from AU. But the show, as they say, must go on.
And so it did with performances beginning February 20. “She Loves Me” is a musical based on a play, “Parfumerie,” written in 1937 by Miklos Laszlo, a Hungarian playwright; the play revolves around two pen pals who actually work together (in a rather contentious manner) in a perfume shop, but don’t realize they are pen pals.
“I think the audience wants to be transported to another time period. We’re living in a time of a lot of pain right now. There’s a lot of things going on in our world that are really sad,” Dr. McEniry said. “It is nice to be transported to another time period, a fictional world, with all this beautiful music, wonderful acting and some really funny lines from the playwright, but all with a meaning.”
As Dr. McEniry prepared for a spring show at AU, the intriguing storyline and wonderful musical numbers inspired her to bring “She Loves Me”to AU.
At the time, Dr. McEniry did not realize that “She Loves Me”would be the last show she would direct at AU before her retirement. But with the show’s blend of tearful and comedic moments, it proved to be a fittingly bittersweet show to mark the end of her time at AU.
“From my point of view, we had an indicator of instrumental music and an indicator of musical theatre performance that was very high in She Loves Me, and it was really a measure of the success of our whole program,” said Dr. Larson, Dean of the South Carolina School of the Arts. “I thought it was a terrific show for Dr. McEniry to go out on and retire with because it was a mountaintop experience.”
Dr. McEniry came to AU 12 years ago, and she has since directed 28 shows. She has played an integral part in the South Carolina School of the Arts’ growth. Only 17 students were enrolled in her program and only one degree was offered when Dr. McEniry began. Now, the program has 105 students and offers five different degrees.
"It has come a long way, and it has been a joy to watch the transformation” Dr. McEniry said. “I have certainly not done this by myself; it has been a group effort. I hope to watch it continue to grow.”
“She has been the driver of the growth we’ve had in the program. We have a really great team, but she has been a great leader,” Dr. Larson said.
Dr. McEniry laughed as she said “God only knows what’s next.” She hopes to travel with her husband, visit her children more often, learn the harp, practice piano and join a Bible study.
But Dr. McEniry’s career in theatre is far from over. She plans to continue performing.
“I’m ready for something that serves my artistic soul a little more than the administrative work. I love my students, I love teaching, I love directing, I love making a story happen on stage. But it’s time to look at other possibilities for that,” she said. “I have a lot of things on my bucket list, so I wanted to retire young.”
Her contribution to AU will certainly be cherished, and she said that she looks forward to watching her students flourish.
“Dr. McEniry is one of the most passionate, empathetic, strong women I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from,” said Kira Fisher, a senior Musical Theatre major who played the role of Amalia Balash in “She Loves Me.” “She and I worked closely in this show to bring honesty and life to my character, a process from which I grew immensely as a performer.”
“I wish the South Carolina School of the Arts all the best, and I hope they continue to grow and do good, quality, excellent work because that’s what we’re supposed to do as Christians and as theatre artists. We should never do anything less,” Dr. McEniry said.