Nancy Vunovich - Celebration Of Life
1929 - 2000

About Nancy


This page is dedicated to Nancy's work, and involvement with Theatres across the country.  If you have information to share, please contact the Webmaster, and we will add your information, chronologically, to our "Nancy's History" database:

1988 - Heritage Museum Collection

Among the Heritage items shown:

1988 Kendallabrum... 1981 N.I.T. Championship Team photo and autographed basketball... "Nancy and the President" long-play record featuring Nancy Vunovich and President Paschal Twyman... KWGS-FM 40th Anniversary program (1947-1987)... 1984 TU Basketball Guide...

1989 - J. Paschal Twyman Award

The Twyman award was established by the TU Alumni Association after the late president’s death to honor any TU Alumnus, student, faculty or staff member, or friend of the university for outstanding contributions to the university, “far and beyond the call of duty.” The honoree should possess some of the qualities Twyman admired, including leadership and commitment.

Past Recipients
2006 — Ellen Adelson
2005 — Charles Norman
2004 — Dr. George Mauerman
2003 — Hart Hix, '41
2002 — Bill Fisher, '63
2001 — Ellis Jenkins, '55
2000 — C. Arnold Brown, '50
1999 — No award given
1998 — No award given
1997 — Francine Ringold, '64, '75
1996 — Bob and Roxana Lorton, '64/'63
1995 — Betty Oswald
1994 — Tish Stuart, '73
1993 — No award given
1992 — Genave King Rogers, '38
1991 — Kathleen P. Westby
1990 — Michael W. Davis
1989 — Nancy Vunovich, '51

Centennial Countdown: 1992

Ponca Playhouse presented “Steel Magnolias.” Directed by Nancy Vunovich, the show starred Karen Rivers, Diana Mills, Jacque Hollar, Mary Hunt, Ruslyn Hermanson, and Zondra Smith



  • Dr. Nat Eek, University of Oklahoma, Norman

  • Dr. Claude Kezer, SWOSU

  • Dr. Molly Risso, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Duran (deceased)

  • Dr. Nancy Vunovich, University of Tulsa

Centennial Countdown: 1995

JoAnn Muchmore directed the Playhouse production of “The Cemetery Club,” a comedy featuring Vicki Poulson, Marge Parker, Iris Ballou, and Nancy Vunovich.

How To Direct a Musical - Published in 1995
by DAVID YOUNG (05 April, 1995) - A Theatre Arts Book

page-42: " ... Nancy Vunovich PhD. She has additional tips on staging. Each musical has several types of numbers that are similar to numbers in other musicals. Without too much generalizing, the ensemble numbers, solos, and duets in Chess and Carnival have a certain similarity to the numbers in..."

From The Pages Of The Ponca City News
Sunday, February 16, 1997

Retired' Director Stays Busy With Variety of Theater Events

Dr. Nancy Vunovich, director of the upcoming Ponca Playhouse production of "Noises Off," though retired, admits she is happiest when working on a theater project of some kind, and that seems to be a constant in her busy life.

Vunovich, who retired as theater professor from the University of Tulsa several years ago and moved to Ponca City, admits that one of her major reasons for doing so was the opportunity to work with a community theater rather than an academic theater.

"It was a new venue for me, and one that I've really enjoyed since living in Ponca," she said, "although I keep my hand in as many areas of theater as I can."

In January, before starting rehearsals for "Noises Off," Dr. Vunovich spent a week in Las Vegas at the National Senior Adult Theatre Festival, where 20 senior theater groups held workshops and performances.

"It's a very new national organization, and I was amazed to discover more than 600 people - many of them involved for the first time - having a great deal of fun in performance activities, acting, singing, storytelling. I would love to get a group together here in Ponca. In fact that's near the top of my project list right now."

Vunovich's next project is acting in a brand-new, prize-winning play for the University of Kansas. "Abide With Me," winner of the first Great Plains play contest, is being produced at KU in April and features several alumni actors who will work with current students.

The humorous-but-touching drama touches on characters who must learn to celebrate all of life's difficulties, and is set in a small town in Kansas.

"I'm playing an old hymn-singing widow who finds new love late in life," she says, "and the playwright will be working hand in glove with the actors and director - a great project!"

Also in March, she'll be perform in Eureka Springs, Ark., for the 25th Tulsa University Mystery weekend, where she plays a 1882 woman judge, raised by the Indians and "tough as nails."

After Arkansas, it's off to Colorado, and her vacation home, where she may be working again with the Creede Repertory Theatre acting in "Forever Patsy Cline," this summer.

"Of course, my current project, 'Noises Off,' is what interests me most at the moment. I wanted to direct this show because it presents such a challenge - not only to the actors and designers, but to the director as well. I really felt that some Ponca City talents were ready for the challenge - and boy, have they come through!"

April 18, 1997

University Theatre to perform premiere of Averill's play

The homespun philosophy of William Jennings Bryan Oleander and his fellow citizens of Here, Kan., will come alive on the stage of the Crafton-Preyer Theatre with the premiere of Abide with Me by Thomas Fox Averill.

Performances of the new play, winner of the first Great Plains Playwriting Contest, sponsored by the KU Theatre, are at 8 p.m. April 24 to 26 and May 1 to 3.

The production is part of "Alums Come Home III," a special reunion for KU theatre alumni. Originally held by the University Theatre in 1985 as a scholarship benefit, "Alums Come Home" has grown into a three-day series of workshops, scholarly presentations, performances and social gatherings.

Abide with Me not only is written, directed, and designed by KU alumni but also features a cast of five current KU students and four theatre alumni. KU alumni performing include Glenn Q. Pierce, Olathe, former chair of the KU Department of Theatre and Film, as Oleander; Nancy Vunovich, Ponca City, Okla., retired chair of the Department of Theatre at the University of Tulsa, Okla., as Iola Humboldt; Piet R. Knetsch, Eudora, director of Hospice Care for Douglas County, as Claude Anderson; and Nancy Marcy, Kansas City, Mo., a professional actress, as Mabel Beemer.

Averill, professor of English and writer in residence at Washburn University, Topeka, said his play grew out of commentaries he has done for several years on KANU-FM, KU's public radio station. The commentaries began as monthly pieces broadcast during the legislative session and expanded to weekly spots about life in Here.

Abide With Me is directed by Jack B. Wright, professor of theatre and film. Scenic and lighting designer is Dennis P. Christilles, assistant professor of theatre and film, while costume designer is Steve Hudson-Mairet, Lawrence graduate student in scenography. Sound design for the production is being created by Trevor Ruder, Oakley senior.

Wright and Averill agree that they have enjoyed producing the drama. "Tom is so good with dialogue, and he knows these characters so well, it has made for a great collaboration," Wright said.

Abide with Me is about a small town on the decline, Wright said, and the need to adjust to and celebrate life's difficulties. Averill said he wanted to explore how people come to live the double life of acceptance and celebration, grief and love.

"The play is not only about the decay of the town, about death and dying," Wright said, "but it also deals with what happens when you're not `here.' The play shows us Oleander's progress through the grief over the loss of his wife."

From The Pages Of The Ponca City News
Sunday, February 8, 1998

Ponca Playhouse Presents Comedy 'Anything Goes'

Ponca Playhouse opens its charming boy-meets-girl musical "Anything Goes," Friday. Director for this seagoing comedy is Nancy Vunovich, choreographer is Fran Norris and orchestra director is Mel Arner. Corporate sponsors for the event are Commercial Federal Bank and Crown and Rose English Pub.

Performances for "Anything Goes" are Feb. 13-15 and 20-21, at the Poncan Theatre. Curtain times are 8 p.m. for the evening shows and 2 p.m. for the matinee.

"Anything Goes," is an amusing story wrapped around the magical music of Cole Porter. In this story, true love is put to the test when complications arise out of a shipboard romance.

The hero and heroine, Billy Crocker (Micah Carroll) and Hope Harcourt (Kelly Haikin) meet at an overcrowded party on a hot summer night in the early 30s. They part without knowing each other's name, but find each other again on the Ocean Greyhound "America" bound for England, where all the action takes place.

Of primary interest to publicity hounds, Tommy Crouch and Cheryl Mauk, who routinely cover ocean-liner crossings, is Reno Sweeney (Dana Nesselrode), famed evangelist. She has her four angels Chastity (Lisa Worley), Purity (Peg McDaniel), Virtue (Erin Rutherford), and Charity (Melisa Young), with her.

Another celebrity aboard is very much under wraps for the trip. Moonface Martin (Kent Carbough) a onetime ships' gambler and "Public Enemy No. 13" is hiding out on board. The "13" has brought him a succession of bad luck and he is determined to move up to the "11" or "12" public enemy spot.

Our hero Billy, wins Moonface's friendship by getting the FBI off his trail, and Moonface joins Reno's efforts to help Billy win Hope away from her fiancé' - the pleasant but lame-brained English baronet, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Dave Hart).

Billy has just a few days to win Hope, whose mother, Mrs. Harcourt (Vicki Poulson) is all for the baronet. Meanwhile ships' officers, the Captain (Robert Nesselrode) and purser (Ivery Allen) are searching the ship for a man who is the occupant of another famous gangster's cabin.

Billy results to a variety of disguises that include Moonface himself. Two sailors Kevin Goldman and Nathan Wells also dress like Chinese converts to help out. Other romantic entanglements include Elisha Whitney (Jose Cervantes) and Bonnie (Christy Kelly).

Additional colorful characters include The Drunk (Nathan Wells), Girl One (Christy Gonterman), Girl Two (Alana Cervantes), and Bishop Henry Dobson (Jim Halbrook).

Rounding out the cast are children; Lonnie and Rudy Carbaugh and Zack Mauk; sailors, Kevin Stauffer, Ivery Allen, Tommy Crouch, Nathan Wells and Kevin Goldman; Society Debs, Erin Sylvester, Donya Gartside, Lisa Phelan, Cyndy Miller, Christy Gonterman, and Alana Cervantes; and Society Ladies, Larri Ann Halbrook, Marlys Cervantes, Melanie Longmore, Landra Gukeisen and Linda Shindler.

Tap Dancers for the production are Shawna Kelley, Leslie Jones, Mackenzie Fender, Nicole Lambert, Meredith Inselman, Blair Turney, Stacy Hayes, Kristina Kirsch, Katrina Kirsch, Jordan Flett, Mandy Bacher, Megan Dickey, Maddie McDaniel, Amanda Choats, Shannon Love, Samantha Dockey and Savanah Morin. The trio is comprised of Annette Hunt, Linda Cowley and Robert Nesselrode.

Production staff is led by Karen Rivers as producer, Vickie Hart as stage manager and Sheryl Mauk as assistant stage manager. Light design is by Pete Shields and techs are Vickie Dailey, Ivery Allen, Joe Cervantes. Light board operators are Vickie Dailey and Joe Cervantes. Spotlight operators are Iris Jorgensen and Michelle Roberts.

Sound design is by Dave May, sound tech and sound board operator is C.R. Rupert. Props are done by Diane Malone and Loretta Wilson.

Costumes are provided by Ruslyn Hermanson, assisted by Chris Rupert, Sheryl Goldman, Kristina Rich-Splawn, Marilyn Inselman, Gweneth Thompson, Mike Hansen, Betty Radcliff, Diane Malone, Loretta Wilson, Sandy Bishop, Eva Byer, Denise Jones, Mackenzie Fender, Marilyn Bacher and Marika Kirsch.

Set design is by Nancy Vunovich. Set construction crew for the show includes Warren Rivers, Robert Griffith, Billy Bransford and Jim Halbrook. Set dressers are Larri Ann Halbrook and Kris DeYoe.

August 12, 1998

Ponca Playhouse Auditioning for Season Opener

Ponca Playhouse will be auditioning for it’s season opener, “Moon Over Buffalo,” on Aug. 26-27 at Playhouse rehearsal hall, 301 South First. The auditions for the fact-paced comedy will begin at 7 p.m. both days.

The play was written by Ken Ludwig, author of the crowd-pleasing comedy “Lend Me A Tenor.” Nancy Vunovich, PhD will direct the production with assistant director Christina Rich-Splawn. Rehearsals will begin on Aug. 28.

The cast covers a wide age range for its quirky characters. George and Charlotte Hays are a middle-aged pair of touring actors, somewhat on the skids of their careers. Ethel, the oldest woman in the cast is Charlotte’s irascible, hard of hearing mother.

Rosalind is the Hays’ lovely and level-headed daughter. Her current love interest is Howard, a TV weatherman. Her past love is Paul, a member of the Hays touring company.

Eileen, another cast member, is a former paramour of George, and Richard Maynard is the Hays’ theatrical lawyer who longs to take Charlotte away from her somewhat seedy life on the road.

Perusal copies of “Moon Over Buffalo” are available at the Ponca Playhouse office. Interested persons may check out a script by calling the Playhouse office at (580) 765-5360 between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Production dates are Sept. 25, 26, and Oct. 2-3 at 8 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday, Sept. 27. All performances will be held at the Poncan Theatre.

September 25, 1998

Ponca Playhouse Season Opens With Madcap Comedy

“Its like living in an asylum on the guards day off,” a caustic line spoken by Jacque Hollar in “Moon Over Buffalo,” pretty well describes the back stage antics of the Hay theatrical family in the Ponca Playhouse production opening tonight at the Poncan Theatre at 8 p.m.

Crazy, confusing and full of character chase scenes (mostly in pursuit of George Hay played by Phil Bandy); a delightful drunk, (Phil Bandy); hammy, theatrical acting (Phil Bandy and Ruslyn Hermanson as Charlotte Hay); misunderstandings by all; great punch lines by mother-in-law Ethyl (Jacque Hollar); thwarted love entanglements involving Eileen (Toma Foster), Paul (Dave Guinn), Richard (Don Jorgensen), Howard (Robert Nesslerode), as well as Bandy and Hermanson; and an almost slapstick plot; make “Moon Over Buffalo” a keep-you-wide-eyed-and-laughing production.

Director Nancy Vunovich, as usual has cast her characters well — not a weakling in the lot!  Interaction between these eight veteran Playhouse actors is smooth and natural, even when the scenes are zany.

The simple but cluttered set is typical backstage and depicts the greenroom of the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1953. As per Ponca Playhouse standards the set is excellent and very usable for the theater trappings of thespians and the very physical antics of the actors — especially the madcap chase scenes.

My vote for best actor for the evening was Wendy Bersche who plays the level-headed Rosalind. Smooth lines, great voice and easy stage presence all combined make for a winning combination. But all the rest of the actors came in second — a close second. The two and one-half hour production flies by quickly as the plots and scenes unfold the story about a theatrical family, hoping to make it into the big time and worrying about the death of “live” theater.

Phil Bandy and Ruslyn Hermanson are — as always — professional and so very enjoyable to watch. Facial expression and body language speak volumes. Jacque Holler adds a believable dimension as the hard-of-hearing mother-in-law, and delivers her witty punch lines in good time. Robert, Toma, Dave and Don add the necessary ingredients to make the plot boil and the production moves along in high gear.

On Thursday evening at the final dress rehearsal, the audience of more than 100 viewers, applauded, whistled and cheered as the lovable scalawag George gets his come-uppence in several scenes. A standing ovation rewarded the cast at close of final curtain.

Others who made the delightful comedy a success were co-producer and costume director Christina Rich-Splawn, stage manager Ivery Allen II, properties managers Diane Malone and Loretta Wilson, fencing choreographer John P. Maddox, lighting design director Dave Guinn, light board operator Deryl Mauk, sound design Dave May, sound board operator Karen Rivers, set dressing Warren Rivers and Karen Rivers, dressers Deanna Hinshaw, set construction Gary Owen, and many more volunteers to handle curtains, set move-in, publicity, programs, and office management.

Corporate sponsors who make it possible for top quality production are Boettcher, Ryan and Martin Attorneys at Law and Kid’s Kastle.

In the director’s notes in the “Moon Over Buffalo” program Vunovich says, “This play is about people who think the theater might be dying. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard during my own lifetime ‘The theater is dying’ — but,” Nancy goes on to say, “as long as somebody has a good story to tell, a couple of people to act it out and some others to watch and listen, the theater is never going to die.” Watching productions like the current “Moon Over Buffalo” by Ponca Playhouse actors make us all hope it never dies in Ponca City!

The University of Tulsa Magazine Summer/2000


Nancy Vunovich (BA ’50), retired University of Tulsa theatre department chairman, died May 4, 2000.  She was 71.  Dr. Vunovich retired in 1992 and was associated with Creede Repertory Theater in Creede, Colorado.  She is survived by her two daughters, Alexandra Vunovich and Holly Lewis Von Arch, both of Nashville.

The University of Tulsa Magazine Spring/Summer/2007

Wade Williams (BFA ’87) is appearing in Fox’s TV show Prison Break on Mondays at 8 p.m./ET. Wade gives credit to his voice teacher, Jane Carmichael, who asked him to audition for the part of Miles Glorious in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home from the Forum.”  Nancy Vunovich (BA ’51) and Dr. David Cook were also inspirations to him.

News Articles found through Google search, in the Archives of the Ponca City News

Centennial Countdown:
provided by

The University of Tulsa Magazine


Guest Book
Nancy's Friends

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Last modified January 01, 2018