OMAHA - This weekly program features educators from across the University of Nebraska system.
"Friday Faculty Focus with Brandon McDermott” airs each Friday at 7 a.m. and noon on all-classical 90.7 KVNO, a broadcast service of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).
On Friday, July 28, KVNO aired McDermott's interview with D. Scott Glasser, professor in the Theater Department at UNO.
During the interview, Glasser discusses how theater students can be successful after graduation, a recent trip to Lithuania, and the role of the arts at UNO. Listen to their conversation or read the transcript below:
Brandon McDermott: D. Scott Glasser, thanks for joining me.
D. Scott Glasser: It's my pleasure.
McDermott: What are some of the most important things you teach your students in your classes about theater?
Glasser: There are two things going on: One is that they are a student in their college and that's a general education in a liberal arts university -- not that some of them aren't going directly towards employment, but it's still a larger education giving them as many tools as possible to look at the world in a complex way. The other side of it are those who are interested in pursuing theater as an art form and trying to find which way they go in the art form -- do they stay at it or do they use the tools for another employment, or do they find themselves specifying and giving them the freedom to try different things? The bottom line of both of those is discipline -- it's a valuable tool to learn for the rest of your life -- if you walk before you can run. There’s preparation, there’s research and preparation for everything and then there's decision making that goes in that and there are risks in that all the way through. In the large frame, aside from the craft, that's the focus of teaching -- getting the students to own their own abilities.
McDermott: How important are the arts to our society and its people?
Glasser: I just did a trip to Europe and I took students on an exchange at our sister university and sister city in Lithuania. My shock in Lithuania -- which is the size of West Virginia -- I asked the faculty there “what do you do with your students, where do they go, do they all have to leave the country?” They said, “Oh no, they all have work before they graduate.” What do you mean they have work before they graduate? They said there were 2,000 professional theaters in Lithuania. All of those towns also have amateur theaters that are full-time with full-time employees. It turned out the theater -- at least from my perspective and what I saw in the country -- is one of the top art forms. I asked how old students are when they start doing theater and everyone said “three.” Three years-old is when they start doing theater. So, it was a shock in the states (theater) barely registers except on popular media. But for me theater has always sort of combined the best of what we are as human beings -- it reflects our life in a very complex way and it surprises us the connections that we can make with other cultures.
McDermott: How about here at UNO -- do you feel the arts is a fundamental part of the university experience for students learning?
Glasser: My feeling at UNO is it’s there waiting for people to grab it. It's so hard for us to get the students to know what we have to offer them within the large university because their focus is taken in so many directions every moment of every day, on their phones, by the university -- it increases every day -- we don't have the support staff to cut through that. Generally, we run very lean -- that leanness means we don't really have a large group of people to cut through and let students know that you can come for free. We try every year -- we try to reinvent that in a way just to let students know what we have. I think the theater isn't a common experience for our students in Nebraska -- at the most it would be a high school performance or a touring show maybe if you happen to get to one -- but that's very little in the states. It's a learning experience of how to be an audience member there. Generally, people who come every show to be interesting and engaging, and of course every show is completely different. We choose a place that we think would attract our audience. I feel the arts are really vital at UNO, the music department, the art department, which we work in the same building. Writer’s Workshop (is there) -- we are exploding with opportunities for students just as audience members.
McDermott: We've covered a lot of topics here is there anything else you'd like that before we go?
Glasser: It's great doing theater for Omaha. It's just great. Omaha is such a lively city and everything is so accessible that there are such lively audiences, lively performers and it's exciting to see people find theater so it's very exciting and its palpable here.
McDermott: D. Scott Glasser thanks again for coming on the show.
Glasser: My pleasure.