Gish Theater task force continues work

Gish Film Theater

The task force charged with looking into whether the name of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Theater  at Bowling Green State University should be changed is on track to present its report to university trustees when they convene in early May.

At Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Provost Joe Whitehead said that the task force is made up of six students and six faculty and staff.  The task force was assembled by Arts and Sciences Dean Raymond Craig after members of the Black Student Union brought the appropriateness of the name to the fore because of Lillian Gish’s role in “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915.

The film, a blockbuster at its time, includes dehumanizing depictions of African-Americans and celebrates the Ku Klux Klan.

“The Birth of a Nation” has been lauded as a technical achievement and continues to studied in film classes. The Klan used the movie for recruiting, and it has been cited as an element in the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in the South and its spread to the North, including Wood County.

Whitehead said the task force will “assess the impact of the naming on the campus and the community.”

One key concern, he said, is to study the historical context of Gish’s career and her time as well as the context “of the time we live in.”

Gish was a star in the silent film era, whose career continued on the stage, screen, and television. Throughout her life she advocated for an appreciation of silent movies and for film preservation.

The Gish Theater was opened and dedicated to the Gish sisters in 1976. At that time it was located n Hanna Hall. It was moved to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union this fall because of the renovation of Hanna as art of the construction of a new home for the College of Business.