May 3, 2002

Fr. Ernest Ferlita bids good-bye to Loyola but not to writing and directing

by Ashley Riley, A'02, Intern in the Offices of Public Affairs and Publications

This spring, the Rev. Ernest Ferlita, S.J., is retiring. Ferlita, ordained in 1962, has been teaching in the Department of Drama and Speech at Loyola for 32 years, and has grown to become one of New Orleans' most renowned playwrights, penning dozens of plays since arriving in the city.

Ferlita's first play, The Ballad of John Ogilvie, was produced off-Broadway in 1968. Ferlita has had three plays produced off-Broadway, including The Obelisk and Two Cities, and a double bill of two one-act plays, The Mask of Hiroshima and The Bells of Nagasaki. The Mask of Hiroshima had been performed earlier in New Orleans at the Southern Repertory Theatre, and it was one of the plays published in The Best Short Plays of 1989. His most recent Loyola production, Much Ado About Nothing, is his own script adaptation of the Shakespearean classic, and was his fifth Shakespearean play to direct.

Ferlita has been the recipient of many honors throughout his career. The 15th Annual Black Theatre Festival named his third off-off-Broadway play, Black Medea, Dramatic Production of the Year. "Black Medea was the most gratifying experience and was staged three times in New York," Ferlita recalls. "It was the most enjoyable theatre experience, too."

The Love Creek Productions 1999/2000 Festival in New York City awarded another of Ferlita's one-act plays, The Witness, with the Love Creek Productions Award. His play, Ma-Fa, based on the experiences of Jesuit Adam Schall in China, was awarded second prize at the International Competition of Religious Drama for the Great Jubilee Year 2000 at Loyola. He says he feels it was one of his most enjoyable productions because it was his own script, and he personally directed it.

Ferlita's accomplishments have not ceased even with retirement looming. His extensive work in theatrical drama has earned him the 2002 Big Easy Entertainment Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award in Theatre. He was also featured in the Jesuit magazine, Partners, as a representative for Loyola University New Orleans in an article honoring one Jesuit from each of the 28 American universities for his accomplishments in literature.

Ferlita first became interested in theater while at Spring Hill College and has directed 21 plays at Loyola. Along with his many theatrical accomplishments, Ferlita has taught many drama department courses and common curriculum courses. He served as the chair of the Department of Drama and Speech from 1970 - 1988 and on the university Board of Directors from 1970 - 1975 and 1984 - 1987. He also has published several books; one of them, The Littermost Mark, is a book on the dramatic writing of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

"I consider Loyola an effective university." Ferlita says. "I liked staying here because it is a Jesuit university, and because I could keep working in drama."

Ferlita also has made contributions outside of New Orleans and Loyola. Along with Dr. William Hammel, chair of the Department of Communications, Ferlita taught drama at Loyola's summer abroad program in London for five years. He taught American drama at Federal University Parana in Curitiba, Brazil, and Shakespeare at Spring Hill College in Venice, Italy.

After his retirement, Ferlita will prepare to give three-day retreats at the Jesuit retreat houses, two of which are located in Louisiana. And writing will always be a part of his life. "There is no question about that," he affirms.