OU-Chillicothe Theater Program Adds Vibrancy to Campus

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Since presenting its first theater performance in March 1997, the Ohio University-Chillicothe theater program has continued to support the cultural life of the campus and community. It's also nurtured the stage careers or pastimes of several students who have landed roles in productions such as Tecumseh! and professional children’s theater.

In recognition of the university’s bicentennial, Assistant Professor of Comparative Arts/Theater Ken Breidenbaugh co-authored and directed the play Two Ohios, which was performed at Chillicothe’s historic Majestic Theatre. The project was funded by a $5,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Education.

Breidenbaugh, a Chillicothe native, joined the OU-C faculty in 1989 while completing his Ph.D. He earned his bachelor’s degree in theater from the Athens campus.

Breidenbaugh recently took a moment to discuss how the theater program impacts the lives of students and enhances the overall campus environment.

RR: You've mentioned that OU-C is unique because of its “texture of differences,” meaning that the college is made up of students from many different backgrounds and a variety of age groups. Do you think the unique make-up of the student body adds to the creativity on stage?

KB: There is no question that the unique make-up of our student body adds to the creativity on stage. During the analysis process we rely on people’s life experiences and use them to further character development. Differences enhance, never detract.

RR: Beyond the actual stage experience, what other benefits do students derive from participating in the OU-C theater program?

KB: For one thing, they learn to conquer their fears. It takes fortitude to first walk in the door, and I admire students for doing it. Being on stage is not easy. Most students are surprised at what they are able to achieve by the end of the quarter. Also, theater benefits students because it allows them to learn more about themselves and how others perceive them. And, of course, it enhances their public speaking abilities. Those are all useful skills to have in any profession. I have had the opportunity to see a number of lifelong friendships form as a result of the OU-C theater program, and a few marriages, too.

RR: Beyond its social benefits, how does theater fit into the overall educational process?

KB: Every play is unique in the fact that it allows both the actor and his or her audience to enter into a different universe that is individual to itself. From an educational standpoint, theater is a great way for students to learn more about the world. Furthermore, the challenge of reading and interpreting classic theatrical literature gives students an increased vocabulary and appreciation for the weight and sustenance of words. The fascinating thing about theater is that no matter how old the piece may be, one can still find a way to relate it to modern life. There are certain universals in nature — people by and large have the same instincts and desires. In this way, the human character withstands the test of time, and theater has a bit to say about that.

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