Three years ago the theater specialization became a dramaturgy specialization under Associate Professor Dave McGinnis. With his departure in July, the English department is working to provide coverage for the specialization until a new faculty member can be hired. Owen Robertson, a former University graduate, will be assisting in this endeavor by taking over the Shakespeare Tour.
Robertson has twenty-two years of theater experience. These twenty-two years include acting in, writing and directing a substantial list of productions varying from musicals such as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Sweeney Todd,” dramas such as “Deathtrap” and “Time Stands Still,” comedies such as “The Odd Couple” and “Chapter 2,” classical plays such as “Macbeth” and “The Importance of Being Ernest,” and original works such as “Behind the Gates.” Some productions he has directed include “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Blithe Spirit,” “The Crucible,” and “Zoo Story.” So far he has written three works.
“The dramaturgy specialization is one of three that English majors can choose from. As part of this major, this specialization offers students a variety of the professional skills and experience needed to either graduate studies or professional work in the theatre,” said Dr. Elisabeth Aiken, chair of the English department.
Now that McGinnis is no longer the head of the dramaturgy specialization, the School of Arts and Sciences is working to find a replacement, with Robertson temporarily filling the role.
Robertson’s status as an Alumni of the University and his successful professional career in theater played a significant role for him to be hired in the temporary position to direct the Shakespeare Tour.
“It is a tremendous feeling to be returning to Saint Leo. Being given the opportunity to give back to Saint Leo after all that I gained from it is an honor,” said Robertson. “It is my goal to give the students the experience of working on a touring production and to provide them some exposure to work in a professional theatrical environment.”
Many students have taken part in the dramaturgy classes and the productions, which range from melodramas like “Dirty Deeds at the Depot” to comedies like “The Coarse Acting Show” to morality plays like “Everyman.” Each play provides students with experience in a wide range of performance styles. The upcoming production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” dubbed the Shakespeare Tour, will give students the experience of a traveling production.
“The [Shakespeare] tour is a way to bring the performing arts to underserved communities and schools, particularly more rural schools, so that area children and students could be introduced to the arts,” said McGinnis.
The Shakespeare Tour will be touring to four different venues later this fall starting at the University on Oct. 24 and 25 in Selby Auditorium.
McGinnis will not be present to see the Shakespeare Tour through to fruition. During the summer, he was offered and he accepted a position as an Instructor of Theater at Bay College in Escanaba, Mich. Brook McGinnis, his wife and Affiliate Faculty with Admissions for the School of Arts and Sciences, also left the University with him. Both of the McGinnises have had a huge impact on the students with whom they worked.
“After being taught from the best it is truly heartbreaking to see them go, but I know that they will bring happiness to their new students,” said Senior Kelsii Elaine.
Now with a temporary leader of the Dramaturgy, the future of the program is a little less uncertain.
“I would like to expand the Shakespeare Tour to more than just Shakespeare,” said Robertson. “There are several theater festivals in the area that the dramaturgy specialization should be seeking to participate in. I would also like to see the production of student written works to further the work of the dramaturgy specialization.”