Drama king

Master carpenter Rees Pugh will head the performing arts department next year, replacing current department chair Ted Walch. Walch was appointed interim department chair last March after Dan Fishbach ’94 resigned suddenly due to health reasons but never intended to stay long in the position, having already done his stint as chair from 1995 to 2004.

Although the e-mail to faculty announcing Pugh’s appointment was only sent out last week, Pugh already has some ideas about changes he’d like to implement over the following years.

In particular, Pugh hopes to deal with the issue that students don’t have enough time to devote to all the extracurricular activities in which they want to partake.

“As kids are asked to specialize and make decisions about the rest of their lives younger and younger, they have less time available to do a bunch of things,” Pugh said. “Now that’s great for kids who know at a young age what they want to do, but the majority of people I don’t think can make those decisions then. And so I think we need to keep open chances for people to just keep growing.”

One proposal Pugh is particularly excited about is combining the school’s theater and film departments.

“I think that for the 21st century it makes sense to involve our acting classes and film classes and teach acting for film, so that the film students have more actors to pull from,” Pugh said.

Another idea to partially combine two departments would be to have an acting class work on a section of a Shakespeare play for a week or two and then present it in reading form to an English class that’s studying the same play.

Pugh, who studied theater in college and worked in a Shakespeare touring company in his twenties, thinks that this approach might “help English students understand the script better, and it might help actors understand Shakespeare better, because there really is an almost musical language to Shakespeare that if you don’t know, it just looks like Greek and doesn’t make a bit of sense.”

Pugh will continue to teach technical theater next year with set designer Alex Kolmanovsky and lighting and sound director Adam Howarth. He will also  continue set building for major productions on both campuses. 

Pugh hopes to encourage more students in the technical theater class and anyone else with an interest in set design to help build sets for the shows on both campuses during their free time.
“Another one of my goals is to get the kids more involved, because there are careers to be had, not just menial jobs, but real careers, particularly in Los Angeles, in production design, in art direction, in technical theater and in sound and lighting,” Pugh said.

“One of my big dreams, and it might take a couple of years, is instead of hearing from people in the audience what a great job I did on the set, would be for me to be able to respond, ‘Didn’t the kids do an amazing job?’”Pugh said. “It is a missed opportunity that the school may not be fully aware of.”
Pugh is very excited about being able to help shape both the curriculum of the performing arts department, and also the direction that the department takes. 

“Are we a training program for professionals or are we sort of, in a more liberal arts tradition, a place for people to experiment and play around?” Pugh asks rhetorically. “Those could be two different directions, but I think we’re lucky enough here to have the choice to do either one or both.”