Brian uses experience to inspire students

Kellie Gleeson

Theatre and drama have been a very important part of the world, as we know it.
The theatre originated over 5,000 years ago. The masks, dances, and songs of ancient rituals were the first type of theatre.
It continued into the Greek Tragedies and Dramas that were written by such writers as Aristotle and Sophocles. These philosophers made major breakthroughs in dramatic analysis and tragic writing.
In the Shakespearean times, the Globe theatre entertained hundreds of wealthy citizens. Today, our theatres stretch from those in Los Angeles and that of Broadway to the theatres throughout Europe or a show done by a local company or a school’s drama program.
Here at Quinnipiac, a special person stretches the minds of actors and actresses each day. Her name is Crystal Brian. Brian is the Associate Professor of Theatre at Quinnipiac University.
Brian started acting at a young age. While attending Baylor University, Brian majored in drama and foreign languages. After college, she attended law school at the University of Texas. But Brian’s love was acting, and after a year she took a leave of absence and moved to California. Here, she was involved in the UCLA Graduate School Drama Program.
After graduate school, Brian worked in all areas of acting: performing, TV, and film. She was able to manage her own theatre and she also critiqued plays for the “LA Weekly.”
“I love all areas of acting and management, but working as a critic on a newspaper got me to look at theatre from a different perspective,” said Brian.
With knowledge in all these areas, Brian had another epiphany. She wanted to become a teacher so, she went back to UCLA where she received her PHD.
Brian then started to teach at Whittier College in California. This is where she not only changed the lives of her students, but she also changed the lives of people in the community. At Whittier, she helped students with their acting abilities. She taught them how to stretch their minds and become the characters they were trying to portray.
In her community, she started a group called the Lost World. Here, she produced plays for seven years, everything from West Coast premieres to World premieres. Her company received the Critic’s Choice award and a spot in the top 20 productions of the year 2000. Brian has worked with artists such as Horton Foot, and Tina Howe but she wanted to use her talents to help others. This is one of the reasons that she left Los Angeles and moved to the East Coast. The other reason was that she wanted her family to grow in a world outside of Los Angeles. This is how she ended up at Quinnipiac.
“I came to Quinnipiac because I saw it as a challenge,” said Brian. “I wanted to build a program. Quinnipiac didn’t have much history of a drama program. I wanted to change that.”
Since Brian has been at Quinnipiac, she has faced many challenges. The biggest challenge facing any drama professor is the lack of workspace. As of now, Buckman theatre is used for rehearsals and productions, but Buckman is used for many other activities as well. This makes the scheduling of classes, rehearsal times, and performances very challenging.
Even with the minor set backs, Brian has improved the drama program greatly. Brian is the first full time Drama director at the University in several years. This has helped her form not only an academic relationship, but also a friendship with her students.
“In the several years before I came here, they had a part time theatre production coordinator,” Brian explained. “It was difficult to grow as a program because you can’t grow unless someone is totally devoted to a program. I am a full time faculty member and totally devoted to drama. It is a great program.”
With Brian being so devoted to the program, it has grown over the last two years. Theatre is now a well-known minor throughout campus, but many people have also started majoring in different aspects of the arts, such as Theatre Management.
Brian has also helped tie drama into other aspects of study. With classes such as Theatre for Young Audiences, which ties education and Drama, and the Acting For Video class, which combines Mass Communications and Drama, one can see how theater can be used to help people in all fields.
“This is a powerful bridge to build communication between the schools,” said Brian. “We can use drama in so many fields. We can use it as a tool.”
Brian also wants to form internships with local theatre companies.
The theatre program is affiliated with the Elm Shakespeare Company and at this site, students are learning how to do management, production and lighting. The Elm Shakespeare Company also does summer internships, and some of the internships are paid.
The theater program is also affiliated with the Long Wharf Theatre. Here, students learn the skills of public relations, and marketing.
Brian also hopes she can form an alliance with someone in New York City, so students can do internships there.
The next step of Brian’s plan is to promote a summer theater program. This program will have workshops that will maximize someone’s dramatic skills.
Brian said that with the teaching of these skills, one can gain confidence and use that in other fields, or a theater related one. This is also a way students can do an internship on campus.
Brian has not only set the path for a great theatre program at the University, but she uses her talents and background to give the best education to her students.
Her devotion is seen through the projects she has set out to do, and those she has already accomplished.
With Brian’s help, Quinnipiac’s theatre program will develop into a well-rounded course of study. The students will continue to work hard and they will have an excellent mentor to look up to.