Highlighting the Theatre Department:

A forward look into our theatre department’s year.

By: Brian Lines

Waltonian | The Waltonian Simon Kwilinski/ The Waltonian McInnis Auditorium

Since early 2020 when COVID-19 shut down most of the performing arts, communities have recently started revitalizing the arts. One of the performing arts programs here at Eastern University that is hoping to nurse itself back into health is our theater program. Though all the performing arts at Eastern were hit hard, the theater department has only been able to put on one mainstage production in the past few years (Almost Maine – November, 2021). As Eastern’s theater department enters a new era, we welcome a new interim director and professor of theater: Dr. Valerie Flower. 

Dr. Flower has worked in the theater and arts education communities for many years, at one point serving as a professor of theater and chair of the theater department at Messiah University for 14 years, and was able to secure the university its own theater space. This writer had the opportunity to interview Dr. Flower and welcome her to Eastern’s community. 

When asked “What drew you to Eastern?” Dr. Flower replied that “it feels like I’m coming home, in a lot of ways.” Dr. Flower expressed how coming to Eastern and working with undergraduate students reminds her of her own undergraduate experience at Taylor University, IN, as well as her other experiences working in liberal arts settings. What Dr. Flower’s heavily emphasized in her response to this question was her excitement towards the “opportunity to revitalize this program.” Dr. Flower seeks to receive students’ enthusiasm and energy for the arts and shape a program that is unique to the Christian, liberal arts setting that Eastern University has. As Dr. Flower continued, she spoke of how Eastern’s three core values (Faith, Reason and Justice) can really help form a unique arts program– especially the integration of faith. 

The next question posed to Dr. Flower was: “What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?” Dr. Flower very quickly responded with her one-woman show, “Between Two Chairs,” which she wrote, workshopped and performed. When describing the show, Dr. Flower expressed a feeling of being stretched and not being able to find a balance in her life “as a mother of a young child who is developing his memories and a daughter of a father losing his.” “This play is about this bizarre and emotionally charged experience.” Dr. Flower insightfully spoke of how she was able to both process these things in her life and create art through this show. In this movement-based show, Dr. Flower acted as both her son and her father as she herself was a narrator-like character. Additionally, Dr. Flower spoke of her gratitude for the opportunity to workshop “Between Two Chairs” with the Touchstone Theatre Ensemble, noting that they are “such gifted artists.” 

The final question posed to Dr. Flower in this interview was: “What are you excited about this school year?” She replied with enthusiasm: “directing the fall mainstage [production, “The Illusion”]. It’s gonna be a whole lot of fun. It has love, intrigue, betrayal, father-son relationships, reconciliation.” Auditions for “The Illusion” are over, and the show will be put on in-person this semester! Dr. Flower went on to speak about her excitement about “the artists we are bringing in to work with the students this year, including Ozzie Jones.” Jones is an actor, playwright and director in the Philadelphia area. Jones recently closed a show, “Dream Girls,” in Malcolm X park. Jones will be teaching a few courses in the spring and he will be directing the spring musical. Sooner, however, Jones will be here at Eastern this semester to hold master class sessions (dates will be advertised). Overall, Dr. Flower is very enthusiastic and energized about stepping into her new role here at Eastern and is ready to jump into building our theater department back up. Eastern University’s theater department is in good hands and students can look forward to seeing more in-person productions in the near future!

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