by Norman Jones
Norman Jones explains how theatre can effectively engage with culture and how Gordon is preparing students to take part in the conversation.
People think of theatre as "secular," yet within the theatre world I've been accepted as a Christian. There's a hunger for conversation with me and with my students about being explicitly spiritual people. Theatre deals with every aspect of what it means to be human. My first day of grad school, the chair, Saul Elkin, said, "Where have you been? You Christians--I don't know where you went to, but you were involved for so long in theatre in the Middle Ages; and then you abandoned it." God used Saul Elkins and others to make me aware that the culture is ready to hear what thinking Christian theatre artists can provide within our world.
As Theatre Department faculty, I particularly enjoy helping students discover they are creative people; many of them come not knowing much about theatre at all. We make sure our students are clear about the purposes they are exploring in theatre. We establish close relationships with them in the classrooms and beyond, in all aspects of productions. What permeates our work on productions is an attitude that we are serving the work, serving each other and the artistic expression, and not ourselves. If they're acting, it's about truly serving the character; if they're directing, it's about serving the whole of the production. There's not a sense of "It's all about me, and everyone's going to clap for me"; it's about doing the best work possible.
One of our important functions as Christian theatre artists is to contribute to world theatre by producing new work consistently. We bring in playwrights, work with them, help workshop their plays and produce them, often for the first time. Sometimes we produce our own work; last year the students scripted and performed the ensemble work Growing Up Christian on campus, and then at the American College Theatre Festival, where it was selected as one of the best plays in New England.
Here is what some of our recent theatre graduates are doing:
• Laura Geiseke '04 founded Heiress Productions, a theatre company in New York City, which performs plays to raise money for cancer research.
• Paul D'Agostino '05 completed a master's in musical theatre at the Boston Conservatory and is touring with Shakespeare & Company, a professional company in Lenox, Massachusetts, performing A Midsummer Night's Dream.
• Kaitlyn Henderson '05 worked with Shakespeare & Company, and is a teacher at North Shore Music Theatre Academy in Beverly, Massachusetts.
• Paul Turbiak '05 will graduate from California Institute of the Arts with an M.F.A. in acting, and is pursuing a career in theatre, film and television.
• Ben Janey '05 was a stage manager for Shakespeare & Company and is on staff in the Performing Arts Office of Suffolk University.
• Elizabeth Polen '07 is teaching theatre at a school in Phoenix, Arizona.
• Elizabeth Condon '07 is teaching theatre and directing Rapunzel Uncut at Covenant Christian Academy in Peabody, Massachussetts.
• Sasha Irish '08 had her 10-minute script performed at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in the New England Region--it was one of two winners there and is now entered in the national festival.
Norman Jones, M.A., a theatre director, actor and writer, is associate professor of theatre. Since coming to Gordon in 1985, he has directed 39 plays and supervised 28 student-directed productions. Norm's interest in encouraging the creation of new theatrical works has resulted in 13 premieres or commissioned plays.
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