Actor; Author / Writer; Playwright; Poet; Singer; Teacher / Instructor
Arnold Johnston lives in Kalamazoo and South Haven, Michigan. He was chairman of the English Department at Western Michigan University (1997-2007). Long-time faculty member in and co-founder of the creative writing program, as well as founder of the playwriting program, he has now left WMU to concentrate full-time on writing. His plays, and others written in collaboration with his wife, Deborah Ann Percy, have won awards, production, and publication across the country. His poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals. Arnie’s books include a collection of poetry, What the Earth Taught Us (March Street Press, 1996), The Witching Voice: A Play About Robert Burns (WMU Press, 1973), and Of Earth and Darkness: The Novels of William Golding (University of Missouri, 1980). His The Witching Voice: A Novel from the Life of Robert Burns was published in 2009—for the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth—by Wings Press (San Antonio). Arnie and Debby’s translations (in collaboration with Romanian writer Dona Rosu) include three long one-acts by Romanian playwright Hristache Popescu: Night of the Passions, Sons of Cain (Editura HP, Bucharest, 1999), and Epilogue (HP Publishing, Bucharest, 2011); The President, another of their Popescu translations with Rosu, will appear in 2017. Their published plays include Rasputin in New York (Editura HP, 1999), Beyond Sex (HP Publishing, 2011), and Radiation: A Month of Sun-Days (HP Publishing, 2016), )with Romanian editions translated by Rosu and Luciana Costea; and Ruppert and Freya: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Eldridge Publishing, Tallahassee, 2013). Duets: Love is Strange, a collection of Arnie and Debby’s one-acts, appeared from March Street Press in 2008. Their edited anthology entitled The Art of the One-Act appeared in 2007 from New Issues Poetry and Prose. From 2009 until 2012 they were collaborating Arts & Entertainment columnists for the award-winning national tri-quarterly Phi Kappa Phi Forum. Arnie is an accomplished actor-singer, having performed over 100 roles on stage, screen, and radio, as well as many concerts. On his 1997 compact disc recording Jacques Brel: I’m Here! (Western Michigan University) he performs his own translations of songs by the noted Belgian singer-songwriter. Six revues featuring his Brel translations have been staged in New York, as well as others in Chicago (recognized by nine Jefferson Award nominations), Cincinnati, Boca Raton, Houston, and Kalamazoo. His Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night was one of Chicago’s most acclaimed productions of the 2008 season during a five-month run, and will be reprised in Summer 2017 by Chicago’s Theo Ubique Theatre Company. With Chicago composer Ilya Levinson, he’s working on a new translation and libretto for an operatic version of Sartre’s No Exit. His singable English version of Wilhelm Müller’s lyrics for Schubert’s Winterreise premiered in 2010. A 1986 recipient of Kalamazoo’s Community Medal of Arts, Arnie is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Playwrights’ Center, the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and the American Literary Translators Association. He and Debby were recently honored by the Kalamazoo Civic theatre with the Larkin H. Noble Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has been a resident playwright with both the Off-Off Broadway theatre company AAI Productions and Kalamazoo’s Actors and Playwrights Initiative (API), and an Artistic Associate with Chicago’s Theo Ubique Theatre Company. Since 2003 some fifteen of his and Debby’s radio dramas have been broadcast on WMUK-FM as part of the Kalamazoo Arts Council’s All Ears Theatre series. Their recent stage projects include: a full-length translation/adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker ; a historical drama, Out in the Forty-Five, about Scotland’s Jacobite Rebellion (produced in 2009 by NYC’s Developing Act Theatre Company); and a musical, Summers on the Seine, with book by Arnie and Debby and lyrics translated by Arnie to jazz arrangements of songs by Gabriel Fauré. A CD of the Fauré songs, By the Riverbank, appeared in 2011, with vocals by well-known Chicago cabaret performers. Arnie and Debby’s audience-interactive holiday show, The Night Before Christmas, completed on commission from the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, premiered in December 2012.