Spotlight on the Theatre Department

Jeff Modereger The semester is over, the grades are in, and the halls are empty of the hustle and bustle typically found in Royall Tyler Theatre. I sit in my office waiting for a student to knock on my door with a problem or question. Silence, more silence, no one is there. With the end of the spring semester also comes the super-sized event: graduation. Although the faculty has completed their contractual responsibilities of teaching, we serve as volunteers to stage manage the commencement event on the green. Hopefully we will be celebrating under clear skies and a warm Vermont sun. But as we all know, it is Vermont and the weather can change hour to hour. Whether seen through sunglasses or from under an umbrella, it will be a great day seeing that sea of black caps and gowns marching en masse to receive their confirmation from President Fogel.

It is comforting to sit in this unusual silence and remember the energy running through the veins of this old building when it was filled with students. As I often say to people, “Once the new academic year begins, once the students arrive and academics and the production process begin, this machine does not stop until spring. We are in full-steam mode and ain’t nothin’ gonna stop it.” Now that production is complete for this academic year it is also comforting to see that the artistic success of the department’s work was fully met with financial success. With the help of our patrons and several respectable donations, we are able to not only support endeavors for future productions but also able to make some much-needed repairs and investments in the classrooms and the theatre. In addition to that, thanks to a generous donation from the Newman family (Christi Andrews, class of '03) we were able to add new lockers for students, add new masking for the theatre, create two computer work stations in the green room, update technology in the box office, add new support for the acting classes and lighting classes, increase efficiency in the design room, add a new audio system for the theatre, and easily check off numerous issues we had faced day in and day out. The costume shop also reaped the benefits of a costume sale two summers ago when we had to decrease the costume storage area.

With the generous support of Sally Weinstock, class of ’56, faculty have been able to offer workshops by bringing in professionals from outside of Vermont to support performance opportunities as well as technical skills. More on this at

Another element of good news: With the help of Ed Tracy and Paul Ugalde (class of ‘76), our own Patrick Orr (class of ’77), and countless other donors, the Wm. M. Schenk Endowment has reached its goal. Many thanks to those who made this technical award possible. The memory of Bill will give forever.

Speaking of faculty and staff, everyone is busy working on our next season, which I think will challenge us all, including the audience. We open with Sarah Carleton directing Cloud 9 (a gender-bender if ever one was written) and Gregory Ramos follows with his own adaptation and interpretation of the classic A Doll’s House. If you don’t know Gregory, you’re in for an interesting ride. If you do know Gregory, well, you won’t be disappointed. The spring production is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with Peter Jack Tkatch at the helm. It looks like a great season and an artistic challenge for us all. More info on the season at

The summer marks another big trip with Eurotheatre. This time Dr. Lynne Greeley has forgone the traditional trip to Paris and Stratford for a two-week stint in Rome. Sarah, Peter, Lynne and I will be packing our bags along with 15 students for two weeks of intensive study. You can read more about Eurotheatre at:

The summer will hold a variety of opportunities for the faculty. Sarah, upon her return from Rome, will head back to St. Michael’s Playhouse to perform in their summer season; Peter and I will be heading off to take care of family business and Lynne will split her time between France and home where she will be finishing work on her book. Martin Thaler will head back to Rehoboth, where he will once again teach his beloved water color and drawing classes. John Forbes will be guest lecturing in Las Vegas, offering a series of lectures on lighting design at the Stagecraft Institute during July. And Gregory will be putting the finishing touches on his newest performance piece, When We Danced (more info on that at Alan Mosser (Costume Shop Manager), Molly Kurent (Box Office and Marketing Director), Patrick Orr (Scene Shop Manager) and Andy Comtois (Administrative Assistant) are finding rest wherever they can and starting to rev up to the challenges in our next season.

For those who have not checked in on us recently, the department is growing steadily. This year we had 18 students in the Advanced Directing class (the measure of the size of our senior class of majors). Although next year seems a bit smaller, the year after awes us with numbers in the twenties. That should be interesting as each class seems to be growing toward the high teens and low twenties.

Speaking of interesting, in this last year of economic challenges throughout the country, we at RTT were worried how this would impact the numbers of students who would major or minor. After all, UVM is an expensive school and a degree in the arts is not always the most practical degree to have in economically challenging times. But we were amazed at the number of students who were not only interested in taking theatre classes but looking for degrees in the arts. The question then becomes “Why would you come to UVM for a theatre degree over another school that is cheaper?” Well, it seems to be because of the program we offer. If you look at the breadth and depth of this program, you will see courses in areas other schools don’t teach. Our students obtain a broad base of knowledge that creates a foundation worthy of building a career. From that foundation, each student can build a specialized knowledge that will give them a vehicle for the rest of their life. As I see it, our alums are driving the Cadillac where others are in a Volkswagen bus. Ours is a great program and we are all very proud of the fact that we have been given the opportunity to not only be a part of it but to watch our charges grow, expand, and develop as strong and knowledgeable contributors to an ancient yet ever changing art form.

Maria Dirolf, class of ’09, used multimedia to pose and find answers to the question, “When we are in a heightened state of electronic communication, why is theatre still viable?” The answer was resounding. Theatre has been around since mankind started to communicate. There are cave drawings illustrating events of a hunt. Native Americans created dances and songs celebrating battles and their respect for nature. As times change, the one thing that never changes is our need to investigate and celebrate that which makes us human -- our being, our consciousness, our soul. Theatre is alive and well at the Royall Tyler Theatre nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Oh, by the way, Maria Dirolf was accepted to a graduate program at UCLA.

Jeff Modereger, Chair, Department of Theatre

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