Strauss names Gleason artistic director
by Michael DeVault - posted Thursday, June 8th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm
After an exhaustive nation-wide search, Strauss Theatre Center has a new artistic director.
The Strauss Theatre board of directors announced earlier this week that California native Dennis Gleason accepted the position of artistic director for the theatre. Gleason will arrive just in time to begin directing "Copacabana," the first show of the theatre's 75th season.
"He certainly has the experience and the of what you'd want in a theatre director," said John Roa, president of the Strauss Theatre Center Board of Directors. "You couldn't ask for anyone more experienced because he's worked with amateurs and professionals from coast to coast for over 20 years now."
Gleason was one of six guest directors this season, selected after a nation-wide search for qualified candidates. Gleason helmed last year's production of "Steel Magnolias".
"I'm excited and looking forward to Dennis coming in here and being able to direct all the shows and work with us full time," Roa said. "He was a very energetic, fun and outgoing person while here working on 'Steel Magnolias'."
"I had never felt more ready for a play on opening night than with 'Steel Magnolias'," said veteran actress Brenda Rowan, who starred as M'Lynn in the production. "He spent some quality time with each of the actresses to help us discover our character. He is disciplined and has rules we have to follow."
Rowan said Gleason's diplomacy will go a long way with local actors.
"He realized he was working with six women and was very protective of us," she said.
Gleason comes to Strauss after stints at public schools, community theatres, and professional production houses across the nation.
Before going to New York, Gleason directed more than 60 shows in theatres across the country. He also earned a degree from the prestigious Actor's Studio Drama School, which is also the home of James Lipton's "Inside the Actors Studio."
Gleason said for him, the community in community theatre is important.
"We're going to try to bring a little Broadway to Monroe," Gleason said. "We're going to continue to bring the family shows people already know but also bring a few of the shows they may not have heard of."
Gleason said some of the purposes of theatre are to entertain and educate audiences. With auditions for his first show scheduled for the middle of July, Gleason said he's in a mad rush to pack and get to town, he said.
In addition to shows at Strauss, Gleason said he will also work in the community to foster arts in schools and charity groups through teaching in the classroom and hosting benefits. He also wants to begin a local, original play festival.
"This is 75 years of theatre this year," Gleason said. "That's an accomplishment so we're going to look forward to the future and not backwards."
For at least one actor at the theatre, Gleason's expertise and experience is something to look forward to.
"He's done a lot of directing so he has a whole lot under his belt," Rowan said. "I'm excited about the direction the theatre will take with him as artistic director. I hope that people will give him a chance. Just come and see what he's about."