In 2002 Housatonic Community College offered a brand new Theater Arts program. With eight classes and a goal of providing a foundation of practical knowledge in the Theatre Arts, students were introduced to theater, performance, acting, voice, dance, technical production and directing. The roots of this early program can still be seen today, thanks to the devoted, steady presence of the program’s creator, Professor Geoffrey Sheehan.
“I built the program from the ground up,” said Sheehan. “It has evolved and grown over time, and I’m fortunate that each year I’ve been given a freedom to create opportunities for students within the classes and programming.”
Today, HCC’s vibrant Theater Arts Program boasts a variety of faculty members who are accomplished active theatre professionals in their own right, teaching a range of courses along three tracks:
- An Associate’s Degree in Theater Arts with 27 credits of theater courses
- A 60-credit CSCU Transfer Ticket Program, with 15 credits in theater courses
- A 21-credit Performance Track Certificate Program offering studio/performance training.
In addition to programming that prepares students for transfer, internship or employment opportunities, HCC Theater Arts learners are exposed to an annual Outside In performance series, InterACTion Symposium, professional development workshops, and an annual student production.
“The InterACTion Symposium shows how theater and art can be a springboard for the examination of our world. Themes are looked at from all angles with departments throughout the college,” said Sheehan. “The performance series allows students to watch a play and speak with the artist, asking questions so they can see all the career options out there.”
In addition to coordinating the Theater Arts program, Sheehan teaches classes and directs the spring student performance (In the Red and Brown Water, opening May 2nd). Students benefit from his considerable industry experience as a worker, performer and director, as well as his background as co-founder of Capital Classics Theatre Company, home of the Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival. (An acting highlight: playing Iago in Othello, across from a former HCC student.)
The success of the program is clear. Many former HCC Theater Arts students are now working in professional theatres, acting on screen, and creating work of their own. Former students have earned placement in nationally competitive internship programs, and alumni frequently visit to perform in the Outside In series, inspiring students with their journey and achievements.
How will the program evolve next?
“I would love to expand the capacity of the Theater Tech program,” said Sheehan. “Set design, lighting design, sound design–training students for backstage work. That’s where a lot of jobs are.”
More About Geoffrey Sheehan:
Originally from this area, Sheehan holds a B.F.A. from the University of Connecticut and a M.A.L.S. from Wesleyan University. Prior to joining HCC, he co-founded Capital Classics Theatre Company, home of the Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival, produced every summer on the beautiful grounds of the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. Sheehan has directed The Merry Wives of Windsor; Macbeth; The Comedy of Errors; and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
On stage, he appeared as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, the Duke in Measure for Measure, Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet, Prospero in The Tempest and Richard in Richard III. Sheehan has also worked and performed for many of the area's professional companies including Hartford Stage Company, City Stage of Springfield, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and Film Fest New Haven where he worked with artists such as Dan Lauria, Mark Lamos, Marion McClinton, and Reggie Montgomery.
For 16 years, HCC has been the only community college in the state to offer a Theater Arts program. Thanks to the success of the program, Professor Sheehan was invited to consult on the creation of a new program at Capital Community College, which began last year. In addition to enjoying time with his family, hiking, biking and camping, Sheehan loves to explore new places, regularly ‘going on wanders” with a goal of getting in the car not knowing where he’s headed when he starts out.