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75th Anniversary: Tribute to Melania Batts

Bringing theatre to Calvin College
Melania Batts, Director of Thespians, 1946–56

While Melania Potratz was a nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Dr., Martin Batts came there to study on a fellowship. According to her daughter Petey Faber, though Melania and Martin's cultural backgrounds were dissimilar, it was love at first sight. Soon after, they eloped.

Martin Batts practiced medicine in Grand Rapids, and then became a faculty member at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During this period of her life, Melania was able to take courses at the university and develop her interest in theater. Martin's untimely death left Melania with three young children. She did not go back to her native Minnesota, but having followed Martin into his "Dutch CR culture", chose Grand Rapids for her home.

One year after Martin's death, Melania Batts became Director of Thespians at Calvin College. Later she would say that having this position was a "sustaining force that helped restore her love affair with life."

Melania Batts developed relationships with other people in the city who shared her interests. Norma Brinks (Civic Theatre) became a great friend. She worked with author, Kent Prell. And then-student, Edgar Boeve, designed extraordinary scenery for one or more of her plays.

Melania's friendships with "her" Thespians persisted long after the decade in which she served at Calvin College. She was the listening ear, the gentle counselor, and the successful match-maker for many grateful college students.

Many years later, Melania settled in a retirement community in Green Valley, AZ, where she took joy in doing beautiful oil paintings and water colors. However, she never lost her interest or skill in drama. At the age of 88, she still performed with a little theater group which put on highly popular productions.


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