CSU East Bay department of Theatre and Dance celebrated its 50th anniversary last week through a weeklong celebration of the art, music and dance that has been produced and ending with a reunion of the people who made it happen.
Beginning Oct. 15, the department held daily activities to entice and engage CSUEB students. From discussion panels, résumé workshops, improv classes and similar theater related activities, the department hosted over 15 events on campus, as well as three forums online.
The activities were as numerous as they were engrossing. On the first day, the department hosted a faculty panel reflection of professor Emeritus Edgardo de la Cruz and the work he created as they watched a video of him and discussed all of the stories, the great times they spent with him and how he affected them.
Many of the events were simply informational classes, such as Oct. 17’s event where CSUEB student Kaitlin Parks conducted a multimedia workshop to have students experiment with video and film editing.
Then, on Oct. 19, the professional company, Dueling Arts of San Francisco, conducted an on-stage combat program, teaching actors how to effectively give the allusion of fighting on stage.
The celebration reached its zenith on Saturday when the department hosted an alumni barbecue followed by an auction and benefit show, all the while celebrating Tom Hird, chair of the department’s 40 years with the department.
“Today it’s like a class reunion,” said Katalina Evans, a CSUEB junior studying fine arts and dance at the event Saturday. “It’s great meeting alumni and find out what they have been doing with their lives now.”
The theater family, along with curious visitors and interested community members, enjoyed the reunion over hot dogs, burgers and an assortment of sweet treats that made many eager to share what they did and what they are doing now.
“Coming to school here, and taking dance at this school specifically, changed the way I viewed dance and the way I look at dance as an artist,” said 2008 theatre and dance alumna, Corissa Johnson. “They really train you to be a performing artist, not just a dancer. It really impacted my life.” The evening benefit show opened with a CSUEB sponsored feature film by alumus, Conrad Cimarra then proceeded with an auction of items such as signed memorabilia and theater tickets. All donations received at the benefit show will go toward raising money for scholarships in the department, four of which are given out to each department every year for music, art, dance and English.
One of the most emotional moments Saturday was when Hird was acknowledged for his 40 years of service and dedication to the department. He was modest when he spoke and related his excitement to reveal some of the opportunities available to emerging artists at CSUEB as well as and reconnecting with previous students.
“It’s been special for me to be able to see some of my former students. I have been here for 40 years, so, it’s just interesting to see students from all the time I have been here, have students come and participate that were some in my first classes, student that work here, all sorts of interesting people,” said Hird.
After many performances of theatrical, modern and interpretive dance, attendees toasted the department chair and the many musicals he directed, starred in and produced.
“I’m very happy I chose to come to this event, because as a freshman I have little knowledge about the theater program and it’s my major,” said CSUEB freshman Tyler Eldrige. “So being a part of this is very helpful. Meeting and talking to Tom Hird was an honor, because of all that I have heard about him and his history in the theatre department, he was very open and willing to have conversation which was surprising.”
In the end, the event was meant to exhibit the importance of CSUEB’s Theatre and Dance department, as it has not only cultivated many artists, but showed the talent and development that has emerged from CSUEB.
“In the arts world, it’s rare that arts organizations and arts groups last that long, but the truth is we are very resourceful and we know how to do a lot with very little,” said Nina Haft, a dance instructor at CSUEB.
“So in lean times when there isn’t a lot of funding, its something to celebrate that the arts are alive and well and we aren’t going anywhere. We are here to stay,” said Haft.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 2:37 pm.