by Mike Lee, Staff Writer
If life is a stage then 65-year-old Marilyn Govich wants to play her part.
Accomplished actor, singer, teacher – and most importantly, mother – Govich feels most comfortable when all eyes are on her.
And thousands were able to see her earlier this month as she performed in Lyric Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins.
“My part is small,” she says humbly.
Her role in this run may have been brief but the part she’s played in the lives of her students is immeasurable.
Govich was bitten by the stage bug early and she sang a lot in church. After winning the lead role in a fifth grade operetta voice lessons soon followed.
“I was blessed with a voice that stood out from other people at that time, at that age,” the professor of voice at the University of Central Oklahoma said. “My parents, I thank them so much.”
To say the Govich family is artistically gifted would be an understatement.
Daughter Milena is accomplished on stage and screen. She played Detective Nina Cassady on the hit series Law & Order. Along the way she’s appeared in seven feature films and maintained a thriving voice career, appearing twice on tour with China’s biggest pop star.
Her son, Mateja Govich, just returned to Oklahoma from New York City where he spent the last eight years pursuing theatre. Most notably, Mat performed in the Broadway revival of Cabaret at Studio 54.
He is currently working on his Master’s degree in Music at the University of Central Oklahoma where he is also an adjunct instructor of voice.
Her other son, Nikola, has helped elevate the New York City and now Minneapolis cocktail scenes as a mixologist.
Both Mat and Milena studied voice under their mother. The full impact would hit years later.
“This a stage mother’s fantasy,” she said. “They were both in Cabaret on Broadway at the same time. I’m sitting in the audience beaming and smiling.”
Govich went into teaching and then dropped out for a few years to become a mom.
“I was out of school 25 years after completing my masters and then went back to get a doctorate after a quarter century,” she says with pride.
The policy for UCO faculty was that you had to have a terminal degree to gain promotion. She didn’t do it for the money. Like most things she does, she did it for the accomplishment.
“I decided this was what I really wanted to be doing,” she said. “And I really wanted to be the best I could be at the highest level.”
So there she was teaching full-time as her own children were leaving to go to college.
“It was an exciting and busy, challenging time but something I’m really proud I did,” Govich said.
Her career is a celebrated one.
She has performed as a soloist with the newly created Center for Historical Performance Practice, and previously was a soloist with the Oklahoma Collegium Musicum.
She continues as an active recitalist, oratorio soloist, adjudicator and clinician. She has twice been selected to perform as a soloist at the National Conference of the National Opera Association in New York City and has twice presented Artist Recitals at the Texoma Regional Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, as well as performed for regional conferences of The College Music Society.
She has recorded a scene from the David Yeagley opera “Jacek” with the Polish National Radio Symphony in Katowice, Poland for Opus One Records.
Two of her students recently won national Outstanding Performance Awards at the Kennedy Center of the American College Theatre Festival.
Govich understands that her stage and teaching career will someday come to an end. But all she has to do is pick up a current Playbill or turn on the TV to see that her work will live on for many years.
Govich now has four grandkids to wrangle. Two grandsons are in Minneapolis and a pair of granddaughters are here.
The widow of 16 years stays busy, even when she’s not.
Earlier this month, Govich played Miss Andrews in the Lyric Theatre production of Mary Poppins.
“She almost takes glee in administering the kids punishment,” Govich said of the nanny who briefly replaces Mary Poppins. “She’s more brimstone and cod liver oil.”
The performance meant more than most for Govich on a personal scale.
Lyric Theatre is known for bringing in accomplished performers from Broadway as well as using a mix of local talent.
The role of Mary Poppins was played by Lindsie VanWinkle, who had just finished a three-month run on Broadway in Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.
When the two met in pre-production meetings in Oklahoma City a big hug ensued.
VanWinkle is a former voice student.
“She’s just phenomenal,” Govich said. “We have a wonderful relationship and we stay in touch.”
The other Mary Poppins female lead is Melissa Griffith, also a Govich pupil.
“I feel so blessed to have been a part of their lives and part of their training,” Govich says of the countless students she has mentored. “I just hope I’ve had a hand (in their careers).”