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Winter 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 1

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“You can sit anywhere in our theatre and see the light in the eyeball, the curl of the smile, a tear shed. You can hear the pain, see the anguish, or share as the actors sing, ‘Happiness Is.’”

That’s how George Brown, associate professor of theater arts and chair of Bradley’s Theatre Department, describes Meyer Jacobs Theatre in the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts.
Brown views his move to Bradley in 2002 as “an opportunity to share a marvelous experience. What attracted me here was the potential and the resources. Hartmann Center is one resource, along with the students, the faculty, the Internet2 experience, and the Iben Lecture Series, which allows us to bring in top theatre people. We have leading artists coming in to work with students, and you don’t get |that everywhere.”

Image from the play Ain't Misbehaven, 1989Brown adds, “We maintain standards of a national caliber. Only three schools in Illinois are accredited. The others are Illinois State University and the University of Illinois. For a school our size, we’re the only one. That’s really significant for us.”

He appreciates the variety of students who participate in each production. “We have students who have acted in high school plays and who, like me, think they can’t make a living doing this,” says Brown, who enlisted in the Navy after high school and eventually enrolled in junior college, where he was encouraged to pursue theatre as a career. “Others know they want a career in theatre. We are very inclusive on either side of the footlights.”

A matrix is used to plan productions to include a variety of genres of theatre over a four-year period. During a typical four-year college career, students are introduced to classics, such as Greek, Roman, and Shakespearean plays; neo-classical contemporary productions, children’s theatre, new plays, musicals, restoration, and international plays. Brown comments, “We have introduced a Globe Fest as a way to tie one of our productions to a geographical or cultural group. Last year, we did The Odyssey, which is a Greek play, and this year, we plan to do Translations, which is an Irish play. Last year, as part of the Globe Fest, we also had a Greek dance performance. It’s a way to celebrate the culture of another country.”

Program cover from Hamlet, 1993He thinks Hartmann Center would be a perfect venue for a Shakespeare Festival some day. Brown comments, “Shakespeare is often taught as literature, but it is drama.”

Discussing the theatre program at Bradley, Brown says, “When we talk about educating a theatre artist, we are looking at a holistic approach, about what it means to be an artist. It’s more than teaching how to act or how to use a table saw. The magic of theatre doesn’t lie in special effects. It lies in the relationship of the artist to the audience. Hartmann Center and Meyer Jacobs Theatre are designed for that. The intimacy allows the artist and the audience to share a marvelous human experience. You feel their energy. These experiences change us.”

Three plays remain in the 2004-05 season: the children’s play Afternoon of the Elves, January 27-30; the comedy A Servant of Two Masters, February 24-March 6; and the Irish play Translations, April 14-24. For more information, call the Cultural Events Box Office at (309)677-2650 or visit www.bradley.edu/theatre.

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