Confident Crook takes on role of Executive Director
The Etherredge Center and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts recently welcomed Paul Crook as their new Executive Director.
Out of the many candidates that applied, Professor Crook was deemed the best fit for the university. His experience speaks for itself. Crook is an established director, educator and actor. For 13 years, he worked at Louisiana Tech University’s School of the Performing Arts as the director and acting professor.
As a member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, Paul occasionally writes articles for the Southern Theatre magazine and for the SETC News catalog. Professor Crook has also written a textbook about directing called The Art and Practice of Directing for the Theatre; his book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Earlier last week, I got to meet with Professor Crook, and I extended my additional welcome to USC Aiken.
O’Donnell: What made you choose USC Aiken and why?
Crook: There’s a couple of different reasons that I chose USC Aiken. One, is that the reputation for the performing arts as a venue and department is excellent and top-of-the-line. I was friends with Jack Benjamin [the founder of the theatre department] for years through the Southeastern Theatre Conference, which we were both members. The other reason is that my wife is from Greenwood, SC where she and her family grew up. It was a great opportunity for a homecoming for us. We lived in Louisiana for 13 years, and it’s nice to be close to our families again.
O’Donnell: Was it difficult moving away from your home and from your previous university?
Crook: Any move is difficult, especially after being there for such a long time and building up such strong relationships with friends and colleagues over the years and the people you love. But litigating the excitement of coming into a new job and new opportunities, to have the chance to build on what is already an excellent foundation. The benefit is everyone here is so welcoming, gracious and kind that they make the experience enjoyable.
O’Donnell: What are some goals for the Etherredge Center, specifically for the Fine Arts majors that are coming into the facility?
Crook: What I want to do is to build on our foundation as a holistic arts center. Even though it’s such as long and unyielding name, I love that we are known as the Etherredge Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. We have this beautiful gallery downstairs and upstairs, and we have performance opportunities for the theatre and the music department, as well as the professional companies touring in. This becomes a hub for the campus as well as for the community. I want to see what will benefit the students the most. What will provide the learning and career opportunities as young, budding theatre artists? What can I do to help facilitate these students? What have students not have before? What can I offer our students? If we provide this holistic training for our students, they will do well in the theatre industry. It’s something that I have a strong belief in.
O’Donnell: What classes are you teaching this semester?
Crook: I will be teaching a History of Theatre class as well as an Intro. to Theatre class. I tend to enjoy teaching theatre history classes.
O’Donnell: Now with the classes that you’re teaching this semester, do you encourage students to take other classes in different areas to supplement their degree?
Crook: I definitely recommend it; it also depends on the catalogue for the classes we have here at USC Aiken. Take any classes that will benefit you in any way. I have taught classes for actors and directors on how to promote and market yourself, sort of the business side of what it is that we do. Taking classes that can augment and help you achieve your professional goals is always recommended.
O’Donnell: What sort of advice or suggestions you would give to students here at USC Aiken?
Crook: This applies to anyone, whether they’re freshmen or seniors, I encourage people to embrace opportunities and to not shy away from taking chances, whether they’re artistic or academic or professional chances. Don’t be afraid to take the next step.