The stage is set for new director

After 38 years as the director of the UH School of Theater and Dance, Sidney Berger stepped down but will continue to have an active role within the school.

Beginning Aug. 1, Steven Wallace, the former dean of Florida State University’s School of Theater, will take over as the new theater director.

"My goal is to position this program so that it readies students for the world of entertainment," Wallace said in a release.

Berger said that he will continue to have an active role in the school as professor and director of the annual summer Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children’s Theater Festival.

"I am leaving the directorship after 38 years, which is time enough and I will continue to teach and direct," Berger said. "(The faculty) asked me to continue to direct the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children’s Theater Festival, so I will continue to produce and direct both of those."

Berger has been involved with the School of Theater since 1969, when it was only a three-person faculty and had 30 students. It has since grown to comprise 15 faculty members and approximately 300 students. He is a co-founder of both the Children’s Theater Festival and the Shakespeare Theatre of America and was the first executive director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

"He is the School of Theater. He nurtured it from a tiny seed when he first came here," Head of the Undergraduate Acting and Directing Program and Associate Professor Carolyn Houston Boone said. "He has put his integrity, his loyalty, his concentration, his artistic integrity into nurturing and building the school as it stands today."

In his coming position as director, Wallace said that he wants to build ties between the school and the University’s fine arts programs.

"I am in favor of fostering an interdisciplinary environment," Wallace said. "I want students to think of how their talents can impact performances in other disciplines, be they art, music or writing. It’s important that artists know how others outside of their disciplines work."

With his replacement ready to take over the school, Berger said that Wallace would make a fine director.

"I am very happy to turn over the reigns to him. He’s got the background we need, he’s got the enthusiasm for picking up from where I have now stepped down and continue, so I am very pleased with the change," Berger said.

Student reaction to Berger’s departure has been met with mixed emotions.

"A lot of us are kind of saddened by the fact that he’s leaving, but I think it’s a good thing because we’re getting a (new) director… who may have a different approach to directing," theater freshman John Steven Santillan said. "Even though he is leaving, he will still teach in the department, so he will still have his input."

Despite stepping down, Berger said that he would like the school to develop its Shakespearean studies.

"I hope (that) in the future, we could have a Shakespeare center that is connected to a replication of Shakespeare’s Rose Theater," Berger said.

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