Please meet Dr. Dave Peterson from the Theatre program.
What is your field of study?
I study theatre from a variety of perspectives. I teach theatre history, script analysis, and dramatic literature, but also teach acting and direct plays. I research physical comedy, so I get to make academic conference presentations about people slipping on banana peels.
What is your favorite class to teach?
Women Playwrights, we get to read some incredible plays and engage with some incisive theory that gives us ways to look at the world around us in a new light. We read Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, which is devastating and beautiful, and for my money is one of the best American plays ever written.
What are you excited about this semester?
I am excited to direct Antigone, its a classic Greek play that touches on issues of how to be a good citizen, and is in a beautiful translation by Anne Carson. The main character is a young woman who has to defy the law to do what she thinks is right. It brings up all sorts of themes that we still struggle with today and boils down to what do you do when you think the law is wrong? What price are you willing to pay for that choice?
I am also excited about the coming birth of my second kid!
What was the last book you read?
I am currently reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, it has moments of true beauty and human connection, but does not shy away from the brutal realities of the immigrant experience of a Korean family in Japan.
What was your worst subject in school?
Geology, it was a real struggle to learn about those rocks. I could not tell one from the other. I have distinct memories of watching slides in a darkened room trying to stay awake. I am grateful there are people who understand this, because we would be in real trouble if I had to do it.
If you had to make a documentary, what would the subject be?
I would love to make a documentary about Hallie Flanagan. She was a theatre professor, and the head of the Federal Theatre Project, a New Deal era program that put unemployed theatre artists to work. She pushed the envelope in terms of style and substance of the work, creating relevant theatre across the United States. We have never seen a program like it before or since, and Flanagan's vision and work made it possible.
What do you do for fun and relaxation?
I like to play with my kid (he likes Star Wars, Lion King and Moana toys), I like to cook (to various degrees of success), and I love to watch Star Wars movies (Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi are my favorites).
Do you have any advice or thoughts for our students?
Try to find what is interesting to you in each class. Even in my challenging geology class I was interested in beach erosion and how it effected coastal communities. Finding what interests you and focusing there helps you do better. If you are just marking time you most likely will not do as well as if you find a personal connection.
Second, talk to your teachers. Every instructor I know is committed to helping their student's achieve their goals. The earlier and more often you talk to us, the more help we can be. I am guessing you hear this a great deal, but it is vital.
Finally, when you encounter something new, be open to it. Maybe it challenges your view of the world, maybe it asks you to work in a way that you have not before, whatever it is master it. Then you can decide if it works for you. If you shut it down before you really understand it you'll never know if you are missing out on something that could enrich your life.
What did you do over summer break?
I traveled and got to see family, eat at some favorite places in Chicago and Michigan, and went to the beach. I researched for the production of Antigone and an article about an American clown, Bill Irwin. I also went to Star Wars Land at Disney, it was AMAZING :)
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