Roe Green frames it this way: She has five oranges. She eats one. She saves one. She gives three away. The fruits of her kindness nourish the arts and more.
Green’s generosity has juiced up the University of Colorado Department of Theatre and Dance. For the past five years, she has given $25,000 annually to fund a visiting artist here and plans to do the same for the next five years. Green is a passionate patron of the theatre, which she sees as integral to the human experience.
This is not a path some might have projected during Green’s days in high school, which she “hated.” In fact, she recalls a high-school counselor saying of her, “I wouldn’t bother sending your daughter to college.”
Two degrees later, Green’s life has emphatically refuted that advice.
Green came to Boulder from Cleveland, Ohio, to attend summer school. She loved the city, particularly in summer, but notes that her arrival coincided with the unrest of the late 1960s, a time she calls “the end of the age of innocence.”
"To me, theater and the arts are what make us human. Without that, we’re just machines. We’re robots.”
It was also the beginning of a lifelong passion for the stage. At CU, she took a theatre course from Professor Albert Nadeau, who one day asked his class for a volunteer note-taker, someone to sit beside him and take notes as he directed a play.
No one else raised a hand. Green did. “From then on I was in the theater department,” she says.
Green had found her niche. She liked being backstage, working as a note-taker or assistant director. She earned a bachelor’s in theatre in 1970 from CU. In 1980, she completed her master’s in theatre from Kent State University in Ohio.
“On the day I got my master’s I was standing on the top of the stairs saying ‘yes!’ just like Rocky.” Recalling this, she pumps her arms heavenward. Take that, counselor.
Green’s love of the theatre, sown at CU and further cultivated at KSU, remains in full bloom. Since college, she has worked in stage business management in four Ohio venues. She has served on the boards of several playhouses and has become a major patron of the arts at Kent State, where she has funded a visiting-director series and a major renovation of the theatre-and-dance facility.
In fact, Green’s $6.5 million donation was the largest capital-construction gift in Kent State’s history.
Several years ago, a student fund-raiser from CU telephoned Green and asked her to donate $100, “I said, ‘Oh, I can give you more than that,’” she answered. Green was directed to Bud Coleman, chair of the CU Department of Theatre and Dance.
Green told him who she was and said she wanted to help. Coleman said the department needed funding for a visiting artist. Thus began five years of the Roe Green Guest Artist program.
“I think the world of what the department is doing” at CU, Green notes. She says her gift seems to have “given a lift to the Theatre and Dance Department.”
Coleman concurs: “Each year, the Roe Green Visiting Theatre Artist program allows us to bring to Boulder anywhere from one to several professional theatre artists who work directly with our students and faculty to create a new production. This enriching interface between the campus and professional artists results in work that permits the community to experience theatre informed by a national context.”
This year, the Roe Green Guest Artist is Jane Page, who will come to CU to direct “The Visit,” by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt. (It will be performed in the University Theatre Oct. 1-3 and Oct 7-11.)
“We are grateful for Roe Green’s generosity in providing us with this transformational gift,” Coleman adds.
Green says she aims to expose students to the arts. “To me, theater and the arts are what make us human. Without that, we’re just machines. We’re robots.”
She hopes more students will take theatre classes, which she says can engender self-assurance. Studying theatre can “give you a certain confidence to face the world,” she says.
She also contends that theatre is more accessible than some think. “I get kind of annoyed when people say, ‘I don’t get it’” after seeing a play. Her advice: “Just watch it. Enjoy it for what you’re seeing.”
Green enjoys helping students reach their potential. Both in Ohio and Colorado, students tell her that the visiting-artist program is life-changing.
Sometimes the change is significant. One student at Kent State, for instance, got into a Broadway production of “Hair” that just won a Tony Award. “It’s those kinds of things. That’s why I do it,” she says, her rising voice reflecting her abiding passion.
When Green isn’t funding the arts or traveling the world (she’s visited more than 140 countries), she’s distributing oranges. The Roe Green Foundation has funded the Judge Ben C. Green professorship at Case Western Reserve University and made a significant gift to renovate the law library there.
She’s also funded a new battered-women’s shelter in northeastern Ohio. It’s called the Green House. “I’m so proud my name is on that building I just can’t tell you,” she says. “If I can help one person at a time, I’ve done my job.”
For Green, it seems, the world is a stage, and the stage is a world. That view was reflected in a recent commencement speech she gave in Ohio. Her message: Take a chance. Be charitable. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.
Roe Green has done all three. She has underscored the far-reaching benefits of knowing when it is time to act.
For more information or to support the CU Department Theatre and Dance, please contact Micah Abram, director of development, CU Foundation, at 303-541-1465, or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.