New UH Theatre director Steven Wallace to expand school’s focus
Wallace will officially become the school’s director on Aug. 1. Among his priorities is to expand the school’s focus to better prepare students for careers on the stage and beyond.
“My goal is to position this program so that it readies students for the world of entertainment,” he said. “I want to prepare students for the theater, while recognizing that many of them will also have careers in film, television, theme parks, cruise ships, Las Vegas and other performance outlets.”
Wallace previously served as the dean for Florida State University’s (FSU) School of Theatre. At FSU, he concentrated his energies on directing and the development of new productions. His enthusiasm for original plays will continue at UH, as the experience of working on fresh projects benefits students in many ways.
“When students work on a finished play, they know exactly how it begins and ends. It’s another world when working with a fresh original project,” Wallace said. “That’s the world many of them will live in when they graduate. Work in television, film and even most of what is happening in New York is almost all ‘new work.’ They should have that skill set, understand the process and not be afraid to work with new projects.”
Another benefit, Wallace said, is that new works often attract industry veterans to academic institutions. Based on previous experiences, he has discovered that students are rewarded from the knowledge they gain from visiting artists.
“Bridging an academic setting with the professional world creates a unique experience for students,” he said. “In addition to learning from visiting artists, students are able to make contacts. These contacts may not bring immediate employment, but it is very reassuring for students to have relationships with established actors, writers, producers and directors. Actually knowing someone in the business is empowering when you’re just getting started.”
Wallace also wants to foster stronger bonds between the school and UH’s other fine arts programs. Understanding all artistic points of view will contribute to theater and dance students’ ultimate growth, he said.
“I am in favor of fostering an inter-disciplinary environment,” Wallace said. “Whether you’re an actor or director, it is impossible to think that you will carve out a career only working in theater. 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.”
This inter-disciplinary approach to the arts is one that is rooted in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at UH, which fuses the talents of musicians, actors, writers and artists. The center and its mission of promoting collaboration among the arts was yet another draw to accept the director’s position, he said.
More than working with artists inside and outside the university, Wallace wants to fortify the school’s relationship with the community. He said that deepening the relationship between the school and Houstonians will build audiences and assist in outreach efforts to bring theater to local school districts and surrounding communities.
Prior to working at FSU, Wallace was director of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Drama and artistic director of its University Theatre.
He also served as director and chair of the School of Communications and Fine Arts at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., and an assistant professor and technical director at the College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, N.M.
Outside of academics, Wallace served as executive vice president for development at Dreamvision Corporation Inc. and vice president of Pan American Pictures Corporation in Beverly Hills, Calif. Both companies were focused on film and video distribution.
Wallace received his bachelor of science degree in drama and speech/English at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M Kingsville) and his master of fine arts degree at Trinity University through its professional conservatory located at the Dallas Theatre Center.
He is married to Elizabeth (“Beth”) Berkley-Wallace, and they have two children, Brian and Michelle.
Wallace is filling the position that was vacated by Sidney Berger, UH John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance. After serving as director for 38 years, Berger stepped down to concentrate on teaching, directing and overseeing the Children’s Theatre Festival and Houston Shakespeare Festival.
The School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre, teacher certifications in dance and a master of fine arts. Each fall and spring, the school produces four plays performed in the Wortham Theatre, two dance concerts, the Edward Albee Playwrights' Workshop, the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Workshop, various student productions, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival.
For more information on the school, visit http://www.hfac.uh.edu/theatre/.