Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Father's Day Blog

Today's blog is a dedication to my father, Dr. William Kershner.

When I step back and look at my life, the choices I have made, the people I have met, and the path that I am walking down, it all traces back to my wonderful father. I am in the theatre because of my father. The Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival would not exist if it weren't for my father and his willingness to house us in his Department of Theatre at Sweet Briar College. I also have a place in the Lynchburg theatre community because of my father. People love my dad and this has created open arms for me as well.

Bill Kershner is a special guy. He is one of the most congenial, personable men you will ever meet. Actors love to work with my father because he is so easy to get a long with and because he inspires joy in the work he creates. I have tried to learn so much from my father in this regard. I think at times I have a tendency to over stress the process which only adds stress to those working with me, but my father is always so relaxed and easy going that it brings an ease to the creative journey. My father also as an incredible dedication to dramaturgical work, studying every detail of the script, its history and its meaning. I am always amazed by the amount of time my father sits with a script, taking pages and pages of notes before he even steps into a rehearsal room.

Last year my dad directed the first BRSTF outdoor show, Romeo and Juliet. I was so grateful and the cast, crew, and audiences thoroughly enjoyed the experience he provided. My dad also serves on the board of directors of Endstation. He has often been a bridge for the company and the college, helping to create a relationship that benefits both the school and the company. This is not always an easy road though and my father always serves as a fantastic diplomat and spokesman for what it is we do and the wonderful PR it provides the school.

My father was born in Denver, Colorado and tells the story of seeing a national touring production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead there when he was young. Almost all of the theatre cleared out early because the show's convention breaking style was too much for the Denver audiences to handle. As my dad left the theatre, the parking attendant said to my dad, "boy that must have been a real stinker, everybody left!" My dad knew at that point that he wanted to leave Denver. (I always think of that story though, because it also shows how places can grow and change. Denver is now home to one of the most respected theatre centers in the country, The Denver Center.) My dad moved on though and with my mom, moved to LA to earn his PhD at USC. My dad has always made it a point to SEE as much theatre as he can. That boy from Denver has always wanted to expand his horizons and push his experiences. My dad is always traveling to New York and London so he can be abreast of the latest work and my dad never keeps a play in his contemporary drama class for longer than five years. I think this is so important in theatre education. My dad's students always know the latest work and in turn it has exposed me to some amazing theatrical experiences. How many professors have we all had who seem to be locked in a time warp from the theatre being produced when they were in school?

Endstation's mission is also in thanks to my dad. I remember when I was in high school and getting ready to go to college for theatre, my dad said to me. "If you are going to do theatre, you need to know: Why theatre? Why not another medium? What make theatre so special?" This question has driven me ever since. I strive to answer this question my father posed. I think this is a question any artist should ask of the themselves in regards to their medium. Because of this question, I want to take hold of my medium, push it, expand it and embrace it. It is because of this that Endstation asks with every production: Why theatre? What can we provide our audience that they could receive from no other medium?

Thanks dad. This day is for you. This festival is because of you. I do what I do because of you. Also, dinner at Outback is on me and yes, I will mow your lawn.

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director


Sally Southall said...

Cheers to you, Bill....and Geoff, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.


Caitlin C said...

I was notorious in theatre history (and every other class with Dr. Kershner...) for arguing with every other point he made, and I think we spent almost an entire class arguing Peter Brook's points on opera. Since I graduated it seems like every day I realize just how right he was and how much he shaped my understanding of how one should go about creating theatre (and I don't think I'll ever stop being surprised when people don't do things the way Dr. Kershner taught them). But back when I thought he was wrong he never tried to stop me from arguing (even when I was wrong) nor did he ever just give up on trying to help me understand his points.

It's common knowledge that I was (am?) Dr. Green's official stalker, but I'm sure I spent just as much if not more time picking Dr. Kershner's brain. The only difference was (is) it's always easy to find Dr. Kershner and he almost always has time to talk.

Happy Father's Day, indeed!