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Theatre professors in Malaysia

Theatre professors spend a year in Malaysia

 

How do you convey the magic of a midsummer's night to students who live three degrees from the equator?

It takes seasoned professors like Jim O'Connor and Erica Tobolski, who spent a year teaching theatre at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Malaysia. They also oversaw a performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at UiTM.

Jim O'Connor
Jim O'Connor

The tropical Malaysian weather is hot and humid and varies little throughout the year.

"Working with these students on this play, we had to really keep reformulating what we thought we knew about theatre," said O'Connor, who directed the play. He was formerly the chair and artistic director as well as head of the master of fine arts directing program in the USC Department of Theatre and Dance.

"Take the title," he said. "How do you explain summer to someone who lives so close to the equator? Summer is not a word they use. It's summer all the time."

Erica Tobolski
Erica Tobolski

"The students know the word, but they really don't understand the concept," said Tobolski, who was the acting and vocal coach for the performance and is an assistant professor in the department.

The students performed Mimpi (A Midsummer Night's Dream) in Malay, the official language of Malaysia, with an original gamelan orchestra, at the National Theater in Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital.

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