Pegasus players get a new theater director

Jeffry Casey, the new director of the Pegasus Players

Jeff Casey looked around at his new office in the basement of Webb. There were lights and props from Dole Auditorium strewn about.

The native Texan had just started this year as assistant professor of theater in the department of English and communications.

There were no windows in his office, surrounded by cold concrete walls, but it certainly looked as if he had made a home for himself.

Fresh from getting his Ph.D. and finishing work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison he had finally got settled at Norwich.

“You don’t need to justify doing theater,” Casey said. “No one cares, everyone just wants to do it, it’s fun.”

For 90 years Norwich has gotten its fix of the drama drug and with Casey added to the mix it will continue to be an addictive substance for the university.

“People are addicted to it, which is good for me,” Casey said. “Cause I can’t run it without a bunch of addicts who are willing to show up in the evenings for hours on end to recite lines over and over again and go over scenes again and again.”

Casey studied philosophy and English and read lots of dramatic literature, getting into drama as a reader and audience-goer.

“I didn’t really get into theater as a practitioner until I did my creative writing M.A. at U.T. Austin,” Casey said. “I started writing plays, I always wanted to write plays, but I really had never done it, and so I took some playwriting courses.”

The collaborative relationship of building the blueprint when creating dramatic plays is what drew Casey to playwriting and the theater.“I think theater is crucial for Norwich,” Casey said. “Part of it is just the students want something to do and they want something to do that’s a little different from something they’re doing otherwise.”

Casey didn’t know what to expect from Norwich, but now a month into rehearsals for his play, with 13 roles filled, he has a good sense of how it’s going.

“They’re interested; they’re excited,” Casey said. “I feel that the students need this experience, they need this.”

Theater is not foreign to Norwich, but it is a bit different at a military school.

“You can kind of see how they need to switch and snap into place with them (the rooks),” Casey said. “They’re trying things and they’re not squaring their corners. We’re not antagonistic towards the military, we’re complementary.”

The theater department was looking for a Swiss army knife according to Casey, and that’s what they got when they hired him. “I’m happy to fill in for these different areas that I work in,” Casey said. “But I do so much more than that, I have a background in philosophy I have a degree in literature, I’m interested in all sorts of stuff.”

Norwich hired him for theater, but he will be doing a lot more things outside the classroom.

“Even though this theater department is only one person it can do a lot of things across campus and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Casey said.

Casey has the interesting privilege of working with no actual theater since the old venue in Dole auditorium was torn down as part of campus renovations.

“When I was doing house hunting I was trying to kill some time,” Casey said. “I was going to look at the wreckage of this thing that I would’ve been performing in but is now destroyed.”

This semesters’ performances will be held in Chaplin Hall after looking at all other possibilities on campus.

“I don’t really like presidium theaters; I don’t like traditional theaters,” Casey said. “I’m excited by the prospect of performing where the audience is going to be on both sides.”

By pushing theater outside of the traditional space, it will bring a unique experience to Norwich where there is no real designated space to perform

Harold Pinter’s ‘Party Time’ and ‘The New World Order’ will be the plays being performed this semester.

“I first read them in college,” said Casey. “There are plays that are meditations on authoritarianism and power, and who’s complicit in abuse of power and injustice and what that means on an everyday basis.”

The political violence in these plays will bring a swing in theater that Norwich hasn’t seen in a while.

“I always want to be clear why we are doing what play, we gotta do two plays a year,” Casey said. “I think the death of theater is when we do plays for the sake of doing plays.”

Whether someone is conservative or liberal, according to Casey, the concern is universal when thinking about the government.

“This play is an extended meditation of that,” Casey said. “I want people to be motivated to talk about those themes.”

Incorporating theater for social change is what Casey aims at.

“How can I intervene, or if I can’t, what I have I learned from this.” Casey said. “I want theater everywhere, and I want this active physicality of performance to be something I can help bring to campus.”

The educational artistic mission of the Pegasus Players under the guidance of Casey is likely to thrive to strengthen.

“I need to talk with people about art, literature, film, and ideas, and politics,” Casey said. “I would be the first person to go insane in solitary confinement because that dialogue is fundamental to who I am and talking to students about it is who I am.”

“I want to help them succeed as students, as artists, as people, as actors, as performers, whatever I can do,” Casey said. “That kind of kindness and generosity wasn’t always shown to me when I was growing up and I want to be able to offer that to students here.”

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