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Theatre professor aiding student in creation of historical dramatic performance


GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Pete Rydberg, Ph.D., and rising junior Austin Hall are collaborating on a research-based literary project. It will ultimately yield a historical stage drama exploring the events that led to the Nazi Party’s rise to power in post-World War I Germany.

Hall, of Beaver Falls, Pa., is a Presidential Scholar at Thiel College.

The docudrama will examine how evolving Germanic traditions simultaneously strengthened and undermined the stability of the Weimar Republic (1919-33). The collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933 opened the door for Nazi Party government control in Germany. Docudrama, sometimes called documentary theater or verbatim theater, attempts to capture complex social dynamics and movements using still images, video, audio recordings and written texts as foundational material for the performance. This is the first phase of a more comprehensive research project to be headed by Hall that will result in a stage production during the Thiel Players’ 2016-17 season.

“Perhaps the most unique aspect of this project is that the impetus for the work was entirely student initiated. As opposed to a student merely ‘assisting’ a faculty member on a current research initiative, our project is fundamentally a collaborative partnership from the beginning. Austin asked me in the spring of 2015 to mentor him through an extensive research project analyzing the interplay of politics, economics and culture during the short-lived Weimar Republic and their corrosive impact on the fledgling republic’s long-term potential,” Rydberg said. “He hoped this research could ultimately inform a documentary theater piece highlighting German culture during this turbulent time between the great wars. As the scope of such a project was beyond that which could be accomplished in the course of a single summer, we decided to focus in on research which would further our understanding of one of these factors — specifically of Weimar volk and kultur. When the GNC Summer Research Institute was announced, we recognized it was the perfect vehicle to catalyze our research efforts and propel the project forward.”

Rydberg and Hall will spend a week at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. collecting primary sources (documents, images, oral histories and videos) from the era as the first part of developing a documentary theater performance. The pair will continue collaborating on the outline of the performance piece during the 2015-16 academic year. The final theatrical production will be presented as part of the Thiel Players’ 2016-17 season.

“Austin and I are honored to be a part of the GNC Summer Research Institute. We believe this is an extraordinary opportunity for students and faculty to work collaboratively on research initiatives, and are thrilled to be a part of the pilot season with our distinguished colleagues and peers,” Rydberg said. “Notably, we appreciate that the Institute’s vision extends beyond the traditional ‘hard science’ world of lab coats and bubbling beakers and opens itself to research initiatives in the humanities. This aspect sets the GNC Summer Research Institute apart from many other student/faculty research initiatives.”

Thiel College alumni Fred Haer ’65 and his wife, Jill (Shackett) Haer ’66, have pledged more than $400,000 to fund the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute for the next three years. The institute is concentrated on connecting science and liberal arts at Thiel College.

Assistant Professor of Biology Delbert Abi Abdallah, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Psychology Shannon Deets, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of English Jared Johnson, Ph.D.; and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Chris Stanisky, Ph.D., have also had their research projects selected to be included in the inaugural class. Student apprentice researchers will partner with faculty principal investigators on most projects.

About Thiel College

Thiel College is an independent college founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 24 varsity sports, and an 11:1 student-faculty ratio. The College is also home to a Master of Science in speech-language pathology, a Leadership Master of Business Administration and a Management Master of Business Administration. Both master’s degree programs offer innovative and accelerated five-year paths which allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. The speech-language pathology program also has an accelerated 15-month graduate-level program. The M.B.A. program also has a 12-month post-graduate program. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College remains committed to combining tradition with innovation.

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