"I want people to know this year they can come to USC Union and learn theatre," said Dick Anderson, USC Union's new theatre instructor.
USC Union will share Anderson with USC Upstate, where he will be teaching Introduction to Theatre and Fundamentals of Acting.
Anderson has always wanted to teach theatre and has high aspirations for USC Union. One of his main goals is to help the university establish real theatre courses for its students.
"I would love to see us have local talent, local students who come to the university, get together and produce, on a university level, plays of a university quality," he said.
Anderson might be new to USC Union, but he is no stranger to the county. His wife, Elizabeth, is a Union native. He has had the opportunity to know many of the people here and said they are good people with an understanding of the way the real world works.
A Columbia native, Anderson has lived in Columbia, the Lowcountry, and the Upstate. He and Elizabeth, a consultant for the Piedmont Region Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Autism Division, live in Greenville. They have one son, John, a senior at USC in Columbia.
Theatre has always been a fixture in Anderson's life. He was in his first performance at the age of 4 at the town theatre in Columbia. When he was 5 he did his first radio voice-over commercial and at 6 years old he was hired at least once a week to appear in a local children's show in Columbia, “The Mackie Quave Show.”
He earned his bachelor of arts degree in Early English Literature and Ancient History from USC in Columbia and started teaching at Porter-Gaud school in Charleston. Not long after that a friend persuaded him to audition to read the news on television. He secured the job and it totally changed his life. Before coming to USC Union he had three successful careers: public relations, advertisement and television. However, his whole life he had always wanted to teach.
The passing of his father influenced his decision to return to school. His father always knew how Anderson felt about teaching and what was in his heart. For that reason he left Anderson a certain amount of money on the condition that he used it to get an advanced degree.
He was in the process of retiring anyway so he went to USC in Columbia and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree. He also took the regular courses required for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. He said he has a dual type of degree because he has the equivalent of an MFA in theatre courses, but also the 32 hours in education courses required for the MAT degree.
This semester USC Union is offering THEA 200, Understanding and Appreciation of Theatrical Experiences. Anderson stated an individual can take this course without having any prior theatre experience on which to base it. One of the things students will be introduced to is how reviews are written. They will then have to attend three plays, two of which they will compose a review of for a grade. The course will also cover the history of theatre.
"There are a certain set cannon of plays and everyone takes those in high school," he said. "We do go back and review that stuff, but we try to go beyond that and give the very latest in what is being discovered about theatre."
An example of this would be the discovery in Egypt of an Odeum, a small amphitheatre, which is connected to what experts think is the ancient library at Alexandria. Anderson said some scientists now think this proves theatre and higher education have always been linked.
Anderson believes theatre courses are very important to the curriculum of USC Union. Theatre courses at USC Union would not only benefit the community, but also the students who participate in them.
"Theatre as we teach it, as any good university would teach it, disciplines the mind to think logically, compassionately, and on many levels," he said.
Anderson considers live theatre to be the only art form where the audience can actually participate and have it mean something. All other art forms are equally valid, wonderful things he said, but theatre is the only one that requires interaction. Their participation in a meaningful art form is what Anderson wants his students to take away from the course.
"In live theatre the audience actually participates in the creation of the mood of the play because they laugh and cry and sigh, breath in; whatever they do to react, that affects the actors on stage," he said. "Those who have seen it are then able to discern a creative concept, an actual creative event that they participated in."
Anderson said that he really does not know why he has always wanted to teach theatre at a college level.
"I just love it. I absolutely love it," he said. "I could go my entire life without ever acting again or directing. I have been there and got the T-shirt. I love teaching and that's what I want to do. I have things that I have worked on all my life that I want to share with people, especially about theatre, communications, public speaking, and that kind of stuff."
Anderson has no productions planned for this semester, but hopes that the course will grow into that. He would also like to see more courses added to the curriculum. Along with more THEA 200, he would like to teach an advanced acting course. He has been working on an acting style which he has been teaching two individuals over the past 40 years. "It is a new, better kind of acting," he said.
"It is a great way to teach people who come to me in ones and twos. I'm working on developing it into something that can be taught to 20 or 30 people at a time,” he said.
The thing he enjoys most about teaching is seeing students gain an understanding of the material he is presenting.
"Every once in a while, and I would like to have it happen often if I am a good teacher, you will see a light turn on in the face of one of your students,” he said. “When that happens it is as if you have seen a new country because you know that person is going to take with them a piece of information and an understanding that you, as a teacher, are directly responsible for. If I can get them to simply be enthusiastic about theatre that is more fun than anything else, it really is."
Anderson wants people to understand anyone can come and take courses and community support is vastly important.
"If we can get together and make this work not only will the university be stronger, but it will also be a better servant for the people here,” he said. “That is what all public things are for, the people who live in a place.
Anderson said he and Dean Hugh Rowland are energized about the possibility of establishing theatre courses and hopes there will be people in the community willing to help with this.
If you are interested in learning more contact USC Union at 864-427-3681 or toll free at 1-800-768-5566.