NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – This year’s Young Alumnus Award winner at Bethel College has sung on stages from Wichita to Berlin and inhabited characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Jesus’ disciple Simon Zealotes and Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine.
Arthur W. Marks, New York, will be honored in a special convocation at Bethel during the day Feb. 11. That evening, he will give a concert at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of Bethel’s Fine Arts Center. The concert is free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be taken to support the African-American Alumni Association Scholarship Fund at Bethel College and to help cover expenses for Marks and his accompanist, Laura Bergquist.
Marks is a native of Kansas City, Kan., the son of Zelma L. Marks and William J. McNeal, both of Kansas City, and an honors graduate of Harmon High School there. He graduated from Bethel College in 1993 with a bachelor of arts degree and a double major in music and social work.
After graduating, Marks worked as a social worker with Hospice Inc. in Wichita. He also served as minister of music at Hillside Christian Church. While in the Wichita area, Marks ran a successful voice studio connected with the Maize School District, teaching students from Wichita and surrounding communities. He was musical director for several choral groups in Wichita, including Stage One Singers, Emerald City Chorus and Music Theatre for Young People.
Marks made his professional singing debut in 1992 with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as a soloist with the Baltimore, Des Moines and Wichita Symphony Orchestras, the Vivaldi Travelling Virtuoso Orchestra from New York City and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. He has performed on stages and classical venues in Rome, London, Berlin, Leipzig, Paris and Vienna. Last spring, Marks was the tenor soloist for the annual Masterworks concert at Bethel College, performing in Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”
In addition to performing in the classical genre, Marks can often be seen on musical theater venues and stages across the United States and abroad. His off-Broadway credits include SIDD, based on Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha and performed at New World Stages; The Screams of Kitty Genovese at Theatre at St. Clements; and Backstage at the Funky B at the Producers Club. Regionally, Marks has appeared with Barbara Walsh and Liz McCartney in the cast of Songs for a New World at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J. He has also played the roles of Richie in A Chorus Line, Mary Sunshine in Chicago, Simon Zealotes in Jesus Christ Superstar, Mereb in Aïda, Mungojerrie in Cats and the Cat in the Hat in Seussical: The Musical.
One role Marks is particularly proud of was as Ugly the Duckling in HONK!, a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Ugly Duckling” that won the 2000 Olivier Award for “Best Musical.” Marks appears in the first American cast recording of HONK!, with Music Theatre of Wichita.
Marks recently performed in the world premiere of It Happened in Little Rock at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, which commissioned the play for the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1957 integration of Little Rock’s Central High School by a group of students who became known as the Little Rock Nine. Marks played the part of senior Ernest Green.
Among other things, participating in the production afforded Marks the opportunity to meet former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as Ernest Green himself and other members of the Little Rock Nine, at the celebration this past September.
Besides singing and acting, Marks has directed and choreographed regional productions of Eubie, Little Shop of Horrors and Sophisticated Ladies and co-choreographed two productions of the musical revue Swing! He was recently musical director for a production of A Christmas Carol at the Actors Theatre of Phoenix. He has been artist-in-residence with Broadway veteran Karen Curlee for the Delaware Dance Academy and has taught at Hesston College and Wichita State University.
Marks speaks highly of his years at Bethel. “Bethel College for me is a gift that keeps on giving,” he says. “When I began my years of study [there], little did I know that my experiences and the people surrounding me would have such a profound effect on my career path and choices. The many lessons I learned not only came from being in the arts, but also in the other disciplines offered on campus. Thank goodness for the liberal arts.”
The Awards Committee of the Bethel College Alumni Association names one or more Young Alumnus Award winners each year. The Young Alumnus Award recognizes character and citizenship, achievement or service rendered, honor and recognition received. The recipient must be 39 years of age or younger and present a convocation program for Bethel students, faculty and staff.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.