By Dan White
Marieke Rothschild was a transfer student, feeling a bit lost at UC Santa Cruz, hoping for a helping hand.
Then she met a mentor who turned her college career around. Miriam Ellis, Rothschild’s kind, gentle, and wise French instructor, took Rothschild under her wing, helping her undertake an ambitious translation project for her senior thesis and find her way on campus.
Now it’s Rothschild’s turn to take Ellis under her wing. More than 30 years after Ellis’s kindness made such a difference in her college experience, Rothschild has made a gift to endow the Miriam Ellis International Playhouse, an annual program of short theater pieces staged in different languages by students in the university’s Language Program (now the Department of Languages and Applied Linguistics.)
Ellis planted the seeds for the playhouse in 1972 when she started offering an annual program of theater and music in French at UC Santa Cruz. The expanded playhouse, created in 2001, often performs to capacity crowds and has run productions in Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Students perform in several languages on the same bill, with English supertitles making the works accessible to audiences.
Rothschild’s $250,000 gift will allow the high-quality theater with a modest annual operating budget to keep going indefinitely, covering costs to put on productions, as well as staffing. “I feel so strongly about this because, in the two years I was there at UC Santa Cruz, Miriam Ellis was such a big support to me,” Rothschild said.