Lights, camera, action!
Three UGA grads have joined forces to build a theater program
Just an hour north of Athens, three University of Georgia alumni have transformed a sleepy theater program into a vibrant department with a state-of-the-art showplace for productions.
Rick Rose (EdD ’84), who retired from UGA in 2004, was recruited by Piedmont College in 2005 for his extensive experience in both theater and education. A year later, he brought on two other UGA graduates, Bill Gabelhausen (MEd ’00) and Henry Johnson (MFA ’91). Since then, the theater program has tripled in size, growing from just 10 students majoring in theater in 2006 to 30 in 2008—significant for a college of just 2,000 students. A first-class performing arts theater, the Swanson Center, opened in 2007.
Rose, who was a student and employee at UGA, is happy to return to his craft.
“The most important thing to focus on is how to help people, individuals and groups, to accomplish their goals and to be a healthy and productive part of the organization,” he says.
The three men share the responsibilities of the department. Rose focuses on acting, while Gabelhausen helps students learn to direct productions. Johnson teaches scene painting.
“It’s been great to work together, because we each have our own strengths,” Johnson says.
Gabelhausen, who worked professionally in New York City before teaching drama at Oconee County High School for 12 years, has a degree in secondary education, which is critical to the role he holds now.
“Without doing that, I never would have been able to design and implement this program at Piedmont College,” he says. “In creating the drama education program here, I found myself constantly drawing on both of my graduate degrees. I was blessed to be a part of two programs that not only offered in-depth theory but incredibly valuable practice as well.”
The classroom is lively as students tease Gabelhausen about his balding head and gripe (mostly in jest) about Johnson’s strict attention to detail in painting scenery.
It’s the environment the men had hoped to provide when they took over the program.
“Students learn best when they feel comfortable,” Johnson says.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Rose adds. “Teaching students.”
—Caroline Buttimer is a junior from Kennesaw majoring in magazine journalism and French.