While pursuing an acting career in Seattle after college, Shane Grant realized he enjoyed rehearsing more than performing and, after some soul-searching, decided to go to graduate school to pursue a career in academic theatre.
"I can't remember not being interested in theatre," said Grant, Millsaps' theatre fellow, who began taking music classes at age six and was cast in a community production of The Music Man at age 13 at a theatre in his hometown north of Denver.
After earning a master's of arts in directing from Miami University of Ohio in 2000 and a Ph.D. in theatre studies from Florida State University in 2010, Grant taught theatre and speech at Georgia State University while working on his doctoral dissertation.
After his initial visit to Millsaps as part of the interview process, Grant immediately recognized the College as a place where he would find similar teaching philosophies.
"The College's strong focus on and dedication to undergraduate learning most attracted me to Millsaps. As a graduate student I discovered that I love teaching, so to have the opportunity to work at a school among other faculty who share that passion is very exciting. I saw the faculty's commitment echoed by the students I was able to meet and interact with when I visited the campus in May, which makes me even more energized for classes to start in the fall," he said.
Beginning in the fall 2011 semester, Grant will teach a performance-focused course on beginning acting and work with the Theatre Advisory Committee in building a distinctive, innovation theatre program at Millsaps.
"For the fall, we plan on producing two comic one-act plays by Christopher Durang, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You and The Actor's Nightmare. A specific show has not yet been chosen for the spring, but ideas ranging from Ancient Greek tragedy to a musical revue are being tossed around. I anticipate a decision will be made about the spring production somewhere around the beginning of fall term," he said.
One of his ideas involves using alternative spaces on campus for productions.
"I'm very excited about staging productions in the Bowl, which I think is particularly suited to (but not restricted to) classical productions," he said. "A section of the Bowl actually resembles open-air ancient Greek theatres, so I'm itching to use that space for a Greek tragedy. When touring campus in May, I was struck by the facade of the building that houses the writing center (John Stone Hall) - it immediately made me think of two plays that are set on the porches of a house, Proof by David Auburn and Fences by August Wilson."
This fall, he plans to use room 215 of the Ford Academic Complex, noting that the space lends itself to create an intimate actor-audience relationship for productions without a lot of scenery.
"Esteemed British director Peter Brook reminds us that there are only two essential ingredients for theatre: someone to do something (an actor) and someone to observe the action (an audience member)," Grant said.
"Staging productions in alternative spaces, such as AC 215, provides us the opportunity to make the audience experience more dynamic, more visceral. As opposed to a traditional theatre space where the audience passively sits in the dark with a lot of empty space separating them from the performance, we can creatively play with the relationship between actor and audience while exploring what it means to be a performer or a witness to performance."
Grant hopes that this fall the campus community will see that Millsaps' theatre program is alive and well and that there are many ways to get involved with theatre at Millsaps.
When he's not busy directing a performance, Grant enjoys hanging out in front of the television with his cat, Gato, hiking (he's looking forward to exploring the trails around the Reservoir), and nurturing what he calls a "bad Karoke habit."