Acting and participating in live theater build life skills for students

September 22, 2014
performance at the Black Box Theatre on the Chesapeake Campus

Tidewater Community College theater students learn how to act and use their voices and body movements to project characters from the printed page to the stage. They study sound and lighting, as well as set design and creation. Looking at the big picture – they become part of a team that works in high gear to present three live productions a year.

“Working in live theater teaches students life lessons that are sometimes surprising,” said Matt Gorris, assistant professor of theater arts. “Each production is all encompassing, and students develop discipline, time management and learn to work together.”

Matt Gorris instructs students on the proper use of tools when building setsTCC Theatre holds fall and spring productions in the Chesapeake Academic Building and in the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center in downtown Norfolk. Outdoor summer theater is showcased on the grounds of the Chesapeake Campus.

Students studying performance theater are often on their feet practicing skills. They study voice and diction, acting, stagecraft and theater appreciation. “We believe in learning by doing,” said Ed Jacob, acting professor and former program head. “The skills we focus on prepare students to take the stage here and elsewhere.

“When working with business people, I continually hear of the general skills they desire for potential employees,” Jacob said. “These include many we emphasized in theater productions, including promptness, dedication, a collaborative spirit, communications skills, creative thinking and the ability to work under pressure.”

Technical theater students spend 10 percent of their time in classroom and 90 percent in the workshop, building sets and learning technical aspects. Students learn stage lighting and sound, stagecraft or set creation and how to set the pace for a show.

The Career Studies Certificate in Theatre Arts gives students the chance to customize their education, learning about both the performance and technical sides of theater.

Body movements and voice exercises are part of Ed Jacob’s acting classes“Our goal is to meet student needs, whether that means helping them gain confidence by performing in front of an audience, or preparing them for work in the field or for transfer to four-year schools,” Gorris said. “We encourage students who have not experienced live theater to take in a show and broaden their horizons. The arts are all around us – in the form of books, television and radio. We show students how to be part of all of this, even if in a small way.”

TCC Theatre is best known for its summer Shakespeare in the Grove offering, selected as a top 50 event during the City of Chesapeake’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2013. For 19 seasons, TCC students and community members have brought the Bard’s words to life in plays ranging from “Macbeth” to “The Tempest” to “Hamlet” and “Merchant of Venice.”

TCC Theatre brings more than 3,000 people on campus annually to experience a live production. “Chesapeake doesn’t have a local theater company, and the college has provided the community with this valuable resource for many years,” Jacob said.

TCC Theatre’s fall show, “An Evening of the Arts,” will run Nov. 12-15 with performances at 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre in the Chesapeake Academic Building.