Theatre arts: a community event and a way to build community

Linking campus and community in a creative and inclusive medium

Theatre strides beyond the notion of good entertainment; it challenges the intellect and inspires positive change. It reaches out across disciplines, touching artist and scientist, sociologist and engineer. It engages young and old, male and female, and enables us to collectively relate across cultures.

National stage


2007 performance of 'The Other Shore' by Gao Xingjian 2007 performance of "The Other Shore" by Gao Xingjian

Virginia Tech’s highly successful and innovative Department of Theatre Arts has been ranked in the nation’s top 50 with students and productions receiving more awards at the American College Theatre Festival than any other college or university in the Southeast. Three Virginia Tech productions have been invited for presentation at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

In 2006, the department developed a partnership with Arena Stage, Washington, D.C., in the form of summer workshops on the university’s Blacksburg campus to develop upcoming productions at one of the most prestigious theatres in the country.

Practical experience

Named a University Exemplary Department for linking research and scholarship to teaching, the theatre arts department has a vital and symbiotic relationship between faculty scholarship and student production.

"Our undergraduate curriculum is unique in the nation with its focus on collaborative teaching and learning that is examined and tested in the laboratory — the theatre,” said Patricia Raun, department head and professor. “For example, a rigorous way of involving all students in actual production beginning their first year is the Production Lab, an opportunity for every student to learn some aspect of theatre production through practical work."

In the lab, students have the opportunity to experiment with such areas as lighting, costumes, performance, arts management, stage management, properties, and sound.

Faculty kudos

Theatre arts students also learn from some of the best in the business.


Professor Ann Kilkelly in 'Prozac Blues' Kilkelly in "Prozac Blues." Kilkelly and a cast of students and staff wrote this piece that debuted at Choices and Challenges.

Professor Randy Ward is internationally known for integrating video and computer technology with live performance to enhance audience perception. Ward designed the set and lights for Cathay: Three Tales of China, an original puppet-theatre work created by Ping Chong & Company in collaboration with the Shaanxi Folk Art Theatre of Xian, China. The work was commissioned for The Kennedy Center and was selected for the prestigious Vienna Festival (Austria).

Bob Leonard, who oversees the Master of Fine Arts program in directing and public dialogue, has a career-long commitment to the development of community-based professional performing organizations. Leonard is a founding member of Alternate ROOTS and the Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET). He is co-director of the Community Arts Network (CAN), an information and communication resource for the field of community art.

Raun serves on the board of the Jefferson Center Foundation in Roanoke, Va., and was also elected to the board of directors of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association Inc., an international organization dedicated to fostering excellence in the field of voice and speech training.

Professor Ann Kilkelly garnered the 2007 College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Award for Outreach Excellence for work she has done in the community. In spring 2007, she helped to coordinate an 18-week educational program for refugee and immigrant girls in Roanoke.

“We wanted to give these 11 teenagers empowerment,” said Kilkelly. “You learn many new skills in dance, and it’s very healthy in overcoming language issues."


'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' by August Wilson "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" by August Wilson

Professor Greg Justice reveals insights into how the arts impact business, offering workshops and executive coaching on "The Art of Business: Using Acting Techniques in Presentations, Sales and Corporate Communication" for businesses and business organizations throughout the region.

World-class ties

Virginia Tech faculty members also have extensive ties to the professional and commercial theatre worlds, enabling students to rub shoulders with internationally acclaimed theatre practitioners through a visiting scholar residency program.

"I felt every step of the way that I was matched with a professor who was eager in seeing me through my own process. They each invest personal attention into individual students to provide them with a strong and competitive foundation." -Michelle Krusiec (theatre arts '96, English '96)

In turn, Virginia Tech alumni grace America’s stage, film, and television industries.  Among them are the head of casting at Fox, the art director from such films as The Rainmaker, the producer of Dead Man Walking, the writer and performer of a one-woman HBO show, a scenic designer for Euro Disney, and a stage-combat master.

At the China’s Golden Horse Film Awards, alumna Michelle Krusiec was one vote away from “Best Actress” kudos in 2005, but walked away with the People's Choice Award for her romantic comedy, "Saving Face." Her most recent work, “Far North,” will premiere on Aug. 30 at the 64th Annual Venice Film Festival in Italy.

Diversity dialogue

Last year, a pair of graduate students created the play, “[classified],” that showcased the need for intervention in social justice situations. Megan Carney and Shannon Turner collected and compiled stories to create a public dialogue about somewhat taboo topics – racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Opportunities for audience dialogue took place throughout the play, allowing those in attendance to voice their thoughts about how these issues affect their community, and to develop ideas that promote positive change within the community.

Theatre arts is getting a new home!

    Experimental Theatre

The Experimental Theatre will be an environmentally friendly academic building with performance space.

ArtsFusion 2008

April 13-19, 2008

Join Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community in a weeklong celebration of the arts.

This fourth ArtsFusion affair will include events in music, art, theatre, dance, film, and creative writing at various venues around the community.

ArtsFusion is sponsored by the Virginia Tech School of the Arts.

Theatre-based science education

TWIST: Theatre Workshop in Science and Technology

Learn more about this project at the Choices and Challenges website.

Related articles

2007-08 Mainstage season

  • "Dr. Arlecchino, or the Imaginary Autopsy"
    by Marco Lully
    Classic Italian commedia, written by our guest artist-in-residence and directed by David Johnson.
  • "Eurydice"
    by Sarah Ruhl
    The classic Orpheus myth retold through the eyes of Eurydice by an inventive young playwright and directed by master of fine arts candidate Megan Carney.
  • "Abingdon Square"
    by Maria Irene Fornes
    This 1988 Obie Award winner for best new work reveals that a society without freedom is a world doomed to destroy itself. Bob Leonard directs.
  • "Emily"
    created by Ridge Theatre and Michael Gordon, composer
    Obie Award-winning director and new faculty member Bob McGrath makes is Virginia Tech debut with this original multi-media music and theatre work based on the poetry and letters of Emily Dickinson.

Learn more about these productions, workshop productions, and ticket information on the season schedule Web page.

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