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Playhouse director Klypchak aims to educate

By Jared Watson
On October 27, 2010

Though Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing Dr. Carrie Klypchak is most visible as a part of the University Playhouse, most recently as director of "Iphigenia," it is not her main focus at A&M-Commerce.

"I consider myself a teacher first and everything else second," she said.

Even when she is directing shows for the Playhouse, she always has education in mind, and that goal influences the types of plays she selects for her students.

"When I am directing a show, it's not only important for me to put up a quality product at the end," she said. "It's important to me that all my students learn throughout the process and that I choose shows that feel like they will offer educational opportunities and growth for my students; shows that will challenge my students so they can grow as actors and designers."

Department of Mass Media, Communication & Theatre Professor Dr. John Hanners thinks this focus is one of Klypchak's biggest strengths.

"She always chooses something challenging, both for the students and the audience," he said. "And there's an educational reason behind every play."

So, when Klypchak was searching for her sixth play to direct at A&M-Commerce, Don Nigro's "Iphigenia" seemed like a natural fit.

"I found the play online and really loved it because I felt like it really provided a lot of challenges, both for the students and the audience," she said. "In theater, I think it's really important to do different types of theater for our community, because one of the reasons people go to the theater is to be challenged to think in different ways. And because of the complexity of the show, I thought that it provided good challenges for our students, so I really loved it."

Klypchak said she was surprised to learn that the play had never been performed before, and used a 21st-century method to try to bring the play to A&M-Commerce.

"I Facebook friended Don Nigro and thought he would never get back to me," she said. "But he did, almost immediately. So we had a conversation via Facebook and e-mail, and he told me to contact [his publishing company] to see if I could get the rights to do the world premiere."

Klypchack's first love was not the classroom, however, it was the stage.

"I think I was in my first show when I was four," she said. "I think maybe I was a Martian or something. I loved it."

Her interest in theater grew stronger and more serious in high school, so much so that after graduation, she decided to pursue it full-time, far away from home.

"I left and went to New York when I was 18," she said. "I just went off and did it."

While in New York, Klypchak attended professional acting school, studying under renowned teachers such as Randolph Pearson, Larry Arancio and the late Allyn Winslow. Though she was a successful working actor, she soon felt another calling.

"I loved living in New York," she said, "but I knew my passion was to teach."

She then left the stage for the university, receiving her Master's degree from Southwest Texas State University, and her Ph.D. from Bowling Green. She has now been a professor at A&M-Commerce for five years.

Klypchak still performs in the professional acting world, however, as she is the literary manager and a core collaborative artistic member of the Capital T Theatre company, which is based in Austin.

"I've been with them since almost since the inception of the company," she said. "I'd worked with the artistic director (Mark Pickell) in the past, and he approached me to get involved. It's a little complicated since I'm so far away from Austin, so a lot of my practical work has to take place during the summer, which is why I don't teach during the summer here a lot of the time."

Klypchak said keeping one foot in the professional world is a vital component to keeping her teaching relevant.

"It's important for me to stay involved with my professional theater company because it offers me different perspectives that I can offer my students about working in professional theater," she said. "Everything I'm doing professionally feeds the work that I end up teaching my students here."

Hanners also thinks it to be a tremendous advantage.

"She is a professional working artist," he said. "So students learn the latest techniques from the professional stage."

Klypchak said that the answer to the question, "What is your favorite play?" is one that changes with each new production.

"Two months ago, my answer would have been ‘The Bird and the Bee,' because that was the last thing I did with my students," she said. "Now, it would be ‘Iphigenia.' Part of it is that I put so much of myself and my heart into what it is that's going up there that I truly fall in love with the work and with the script. Whatever is the most recent becomes my favorite."

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