Johns Hopkins Names Theatre After John Astin

John Astin

Johns Hopkins University has honored John Astin by naming its recently renovated theatre after the noted actor and teacher. The naming took place at an event on December 3, celebrating the completion of renovations to the Merrick Barn, where the theatre is housed, and recognizing Astin’s 10-year anniversary of teaching, acting, and directing at Johns Hopkins.

Notable actor and Astin’s long-time friend Ed Asner was master of ceremonies for the event, which featured the performance of two one-act plays by some of Astin’s students. After the performances, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels made the surprise announcement.

“In recognition of your exceptional work not only on stages worldwide, but also here at Johns Hopkins, we are delighted to name this theatre in the Merrick Barn in your honor,” said Daniels. “The John Astin Theatre in the Merrick Barn will be a permanent embodiment of your tremendous legacy already so beautifully reflected in the artistry of the students you have taught and the joy of audiences you have touched.”

Astin said he was “shocked, stunned, and, of course, delighted and grateful.”

“I believe the recognition has come about through the achievements of the current students, and the successes, after graduation, earned by those who have gone through the program and participated in the university theatre,” Astin said. “Much of the credit belongs to our small but wonderful faculty and staff, supporters and parents, and to the vision of President Ron Daniels and Krieger School Dean Katherine Newman. I am stoked! They have energized and inspired me with this exquisite gesture, and I feel that it could be the catalyst that propels us toward the theatre major we have long desired for Johns Hopkins.”

Astin is perhaps best known for the role of Gomez Addams on the television show, The Addams Family. After majoring in drama at Johns Hopkins and graduating in 1952, Astin started in theatre on Broadway. His first big break in film came with a part in West Side Story in 1961. His talent for comedy led him to roles in several television sitcoms. He received an Academy Award nomination for Prelude, a short film he wrote, produced, and directed. Astin returned to Johns Hopkins in 2001 to teach acting and directing and to revitalize the undergraduate program in theatre arts.

“John’s vision for the Program in Theatre Arts and Studies has shaped it into an extraordinary program that empowers students on the stage and off,” said Katherine Newman, dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. “His enthusiasm is contagious, and the talent he continues to share with us will forever live on in this theatre that bears his name.”

The John Astin Theatre is housed in the Merrick Barn, built by Charles Carroll in the early 19th century (intended for dairy cattle) and converted into a student center when the university moved to the Homewood campus. In 1983, it was formally named the Merrick Barn, in honor of Robert G. Merrick ’17, PhD ’22. Today, the Merrick Barn is home to the Undergraduate Program in Theatre Arts and Studies.

Over the years, the main theatre seating and flooring had become threadbare and the proscenium needed renovation. Thanks to the generous support from the France-Merrick Foundation and other patrons, $210,000 was raised for a renovation project that was completed this summer. Renovations included replacing the theatre’s lighting and its 104 seats, new flooring, paint, and furnishings throughout the building, and various other improvements to create a better theatre environment for students while enhancing the audience experience.

Between 120 and 160 students enroll each semester in courses that include acting, directing, playwriting, stagecraft, and theatrical and literary appreciation. Two or three productions are presented in the Merrick Barn each semester for audiences from the Homewood and Baltimore communities.

For more information regarding the John Astin Theatre, contact Kate Pipkin, director of communications, at 410-516-7702 or kpipkin@jhu.edu