Prof. Jeff Casey on Theater at NorwichJeffry Casey, PhD, started out writing fiction but soon switched to playwriting. He was far more creative and productive writing scripts, he found, knowing that they were more of a blueprint than a final product. The assistant professor says working in theater was liberating. Unlike novel-writing or painting, it turned the act of artistic creation into a collaborative process. “You can’t create theater without a team.”
Since joining the faculty in 2017, Casey has taught classes on theater, public speaking, gender and media studies, and creative writing. In the fall, the Texas native oversaw a Pegasus Players production of Cabaret, the first student production in Mack Hall’s new state-of-the-art theater. The choice of the play, a 50-year-old musical set in 1930s Berlin during the rise of Nazism, resonated on two levels, Casey says. Its themes are relevant in the current political climate. It also pays homage to a previous production of the musical 20 years ago by the Pegasus Players, the oldest student group on campus.
Casey also brought Cry Havoc! to campus. The one-person play by Stephan Wolfert, an actor and former U.S. Army infantry officer and medic, uses Shakespeare to explore the impact of war on veterans then and now. “The performance is in many ways, [about] his discovery of Shakespeare and theater as a way to cope with and work through his own experiences as a trauma survivor during his time as a soldier.”
Casey himself grew up in rural West Texas and earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin Madison. The director and playwright says theater plays an important role at a senior military college like Norwich, one that he “can probably talk all day about.” The openness and community offered by the theater program can be a welcome respite to students under pressure, especially for rooks.
In the year that it took to build Mack Hall following the demolition of Dole Auditorium, Casey staged theater productions in borrowed spaces. The new theater in Mack Hall “changes in many fundamental ways the student experience to be on a proper stage.” As for the Pegasus Players, they take incredible pride in their new home, Casey says. If gum is left under the seats, “they’re so angry,” he says. “It really does belong to them.”
The Norwich Record | Spring 2019