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Phillip Church, Theatre Professor

Bound and determined to entertain audiences, I got my start on stage at the age of nine. In the early 1960s the central means of entertainment in England were radio and the stage.

Two televisions stations existed – BBC and ITV but for the longest time TV and film remained distant relatives to the real thing – live interactive performance.

I trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and as an Equity actor in the US and UK appeared in many stage productions; however, the desire for self-transformation wore soon off and my primary attention focused on teaching, directing.

And with that came the realization that it wasn’t so much about the doing of it rather than inducing the ability to do it out of someone else that the focus of my work went onto projects that would entertain while serving as strong social messages supporting the particular needs of a community such as homelessness, physical disabilities, domestic violence, migrant exploitation, AIDS, student alienation, campus violence and foster care.

Through a deepening well of academic inquiry, a leak the size of the Mexican Gulf gushed an illumination that theater should not be for theater’s sake alone, but rather that its charismatic voice should awaken the most insouciant of beings.

I have much to be grateful for in the thirty years that I have been developing theater at FIU.

The university has afforded me the opportunity to develop productions for the Department of Theater and for community-related projects that aspire to this goal, and along the journey I have been able to guide students whose eyes and ears transcended the illusionary fiction of theater to the realities of the world around them, making them artists who respect rock-solid values, the highest of which being their own self-value.

These are the artists the world is in need of, those who breathe expression and life into the question of being. Applause is merely the icing. The cake beneath is what nourishes and satisfies the soul, and theater artists must be protected and empowered to bring the right ingredients to the mix.

They are, as Shakespeare once said through the voice of Hamlet, the “chroniclers of our age.” A more fragile yet necessary group of people one could never find on earth.

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