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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

Gisselman talks shop

By April Wright
Staff Writer

Friday, March 3, 2006

Many students probably do not know that the Theatre Department has an artist in residence. I was among these students until recently when I had a chance to sit down and talk with Artist-in-Residence Gary Gisselman about his life and career.

Though Gisselman’s interest in theatre did not become a passion until college, some of his most cherished theatrical experiences came from being in the audience. Gisselman has always been drawn to storytelling, a love that began as a child in Bloomington, Minn.

“My grandmother used to read to us in her broken Danish accent,” Gisselman said. “I think I drifted into theatre because of that.”

Gisselman was also influenced by the amateur theatre he saw in grade school, where every year the cooks, bus drivers and custodians would put on a play.

"It was amazing how people I knew from other situations transformed into something different," he said.

Gisselman has worked in theatre, mostly as a director, since graduating from Carthage College.

During his career, Gisselman has worked at a wide array of venues. He served as the artistic director of the Arizona Theatre Company, and taught at both University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

Though he has worked in theatre from Salt Lake to Seattle, Gisselman has remained strongly connected with Minnesota theatre.

He worked with the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, and was a founding member and artistic director of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Gisselman had taught opera at the University of Minnesota for four years when St. Olaf called to offer him a position.

He was impressed by the school’s liberal arts programs, and said that it is refreshing to work with actors who can not only act, but also understand the world around them.

In preparation for an upcoming production of Tom Stoppard’s "Arcadia," Gisselman and his cast studied fractal geometry with Associate Professor of Mathematics Kay Smith and the work of Lord Byron with Professor of English Jonathan Hill in order to better understand the main character.

Given his experience and accolades, it is easy to see why St. Olaf would want Gisselman as an artist in residence.

But it is his outlook on theatre that makes him truly valuable: "[Theatre] is a way of thinking and a way of seeing."

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