The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 25, 2012

Performing arts | 'Theater pertinent to other careers'

JOHNSTOWN — John Teacher is starting his second year as instructor of theater arts at Pitt-Johnstown in Richland Township.

“I’m a full-time faculty member, and Kate Davis is an adjunct faculty member,” Teacher said.

“We alternate directing responsibilities. I did the fall production, and she’ll do the spring production.”

Teacher directed “Durang Durang” at the beginning of November.

Davis will direct “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which will be staged Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28 and March 1-2.

Teacher will work on set design and lights for the spring production, overseeing technical students.

With the recent departure of former theater director Ann Marie Stewart, who was at Pitt-Johnstown for several years after the retirement of Rodney Eatman in 2009, this is the first year Teacher has had to direct part time.

“I think we made tremendous strides in the fall production,” Teacher said.

“This is what I was looking for. We had 29 cast members, 37 with those working on lights and sets. I thought they were all talented in their own way. I look forward to working with them again.”

Teacher added that since the transition between Stewart’s leaving and his taking on the mantle of director, students have been excited about the changes being implemented.

“The students have a wide array of talent, and I’m most pleased with their enthusiasm and energy, their willingness and desire to learn,” Teacher said.

Scaling back

In the past, Pitt-Johnstown’s theater department produced a musical and play every year. In the future, musicals will be cut back to every other year or every third year.

“We want to look at what theatrical forms we need to expose our students to in the four years we have them,” Teacher said. “We’re not a musical theater department and have no classes in voice and dance from the theater department.

“It’s important to have modern drama and comedy, so we’ve dialed back on musicals. Then, when they do have a large-scale production, they’ll approach it with more forceful enthusiasm.”

Teacher said a school such as Point Park College in Pittsburgh has many more classes for a student wanting to major in musical theater.

“The focus of our program will be dramatic performance, period drama and comedy,” he said.

Theater classes

Teacher said Pitt-Johnstown offers a full gambit of theater classes, so no matter what a student’s interests, there is a course to suit them.

Two new courses in the works for next semester are modern acting theory and puppetry in theater.

“In the acting theory class, students will analyse modern techniques,” Teacher said. “There’s been an interest in the puppetry class from education majors, so theater classes can be pertinent to other careers.”

As another example, Teacher said the stage craft of building sets is often popular with engineering majors.

There is no set limit of courses a theater major is required to take per semester.

Teacher said if a student was going for strictly theater classes, they could take as many as six to eight courses per semester.

Various performance opportunities are available for theater students at Pitt-Johnstown.

Main stage play

Each semester, a fully produced main stage play will be performed.

“It’s as professional as you can get, directed by faculty and designed by senior students,” Teacher said.

First-time directors can get a chance to take the reins in a directing class that focuses on the connection between audience, performers and director.

“It has a very basic focus and isn’t a fully realized production,” Teacher said.

The Golgonooza theater festival, which will be held April 16-17 in connection with Pitt’s creative writing classes, is student written, directed and designed.

“This serves as a stepping stone to directing their own production, but it’s still not a fully realized production,” Teacher said.

Another instructor

With only two faculty members, Teacher envisions bringing on another adjunct here and there when there is a strong interest in a class.

When there is a full-scale production, the theater department contracts out for costuming, hair and makeup.

“We want to look at the four-year life span of the student and see what course we need to teach,” Teacher said. “Our concern is that students have a portfolio or resume for whatever they need to do when they leave.”

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