Originally from Illinois, Paul spent several years working for Wayne State University before coming to Hope. While at Wayne State, he saw several seasons of productions by the Hillberry Repertory Company; one of the only graduate-level repertories in the country. After his time at Wayne State, and out of a job, a friend invited him to sing in the pit choir for the musical Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
During scenic strike for the production, Paul thought to himself, “I could do this,” and he enrolled at Hope College, where he was a student from 1986-1988. After graduating, Paul worked as a freelance carpenter around Holland until he received a phone call from Hope professor and then theatre department chair, Richard Smith. Richard told Paul that the theatre department had been granted funding for a technical director position, so Paul applied for the job and was hired.
Perry grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and studied music performance and composition at Colorado State University and Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. At Whitworth, he caught the theatre bug when he designed and ran sound for Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. After graduation and a brief stint as a performing musician, he returned to Whitworth as the Auditorium Coordinator. He then obtained an MFA in Design Technical Theatre from the University of Montana, where he also composed incidental music for plays. After the MFA was completed, he started a freelance career in Salinas, California. Shortly thereafter, a phone call from Richard Smith brought him on a one-year appointment to Holland starting in the fall semester of 1987.
“One year. I was here for a year, I thought,” Perry says. “We see how that worked out!”
Perry is the Lighting and Sound Designer in Residence, Associate Professor and Facilities Manager. He explains that no two days are alike, which has always kept the work fresh and interesting. There are always plenty of problems to solve, both creative and otherwise. His schedule takes him all over the building and elsewhere, so he admits that he isn’t in his office very often.
Paul says his job as technical director for the theatre department is more regulated than Perry’s job, and he has tried to keep it that way. Despite the depth of the tasks Paul is given, he has managed to keep his work schedule to five days a week:
“Theatre is known to eat some people’s lives, and I have attempted to not let that happen.” Paul’s main task as the TD is to take Richard Smith’s scenic designs, or drawings, and to interpret and build them in the best manner to safely support the productions.
The Hope College theatre department and community will greatly miss these dedicated departmental members after their 63 years of combined service.
Perry indicates that picking a favorite production from his time at Hope would be equivalent to picking a favorite child. He did, however, name The Nutcracker, a Play, which featured puppeteer and alum Brad William’s giant mice and spiders. The Nutcracker, a Play was presented five times between 1990 and 1995. Another piece that came to mind was Buried Child, staged in 1992, featuring Professor Emeritus George Ralph. But there are so many, he says, all wonderful memories. Paul also had a hard time picking a favorite production but was able to identify one of his favorite parts of technical directing. He said that even when the construction of a show seemed to drag on beyond endurance, or if there were real struggles getting the show up, sitting in the auditorium and witnessing everything come together on opening night made all of the challenges worth it:
“If there are functional elements in the set, there is always a moment of anticipation to see if it works, and when it does, I think wow, it worked, it came together. Seeing the results is the most rewarding.”
We also asked Perry about his favorite aspects of working at Hope College. “Working with students” evolved over the years into a primary interest. Hope students can be so bright, articulate, intellectually curious, and engaged. Perry explained that he had never planned on becoming a teacher. He intended a career as a composer and designer, and thought he might teach for a year or two, perhaps, later in his career. Here at Hope, however, his relationships with students became as interesting as his design work, often more so. He admits, however, that he loves those rare, precious moments during a production when the audience members forget to breathe because they have become transfixed:
“That’s what it’s all about. I live for those moments,” Perry says.
Paul’s and Perry’s last working day at Hope College will be June 30th. In retirement, Perry plans on taking some steps away from theatre to follow other creative passions and do more writing, home improvements, and travel. Similar to Perry, Paul hopes to travel, build furniture, and work on a miniature working steam locomotive that runs on real coal. When it’s complete, it should produce enough power to pull a couple of adults on a riding car.
Perry’s advice to new faculty would be to make the most of the ‘honeymoon phase’, just after being hired. Chairs, deans and provosts are at their most amenable! Be sure to make recommendations, ask for things, and take action. It’s a very valuable time. Paul’s advice to anyone who may fill his shoes in the future is to get to know the students and truly pay attention to them: “They come in with such a wide range of talents. It will be a challenge, but don’t judge a student based strictly on their initial abilities, give them a chance.”
The Hope College theatre department and community will greatly miss these dedicated departmental members after their 63 years of combined service. We are beyond grateful for all of the wisdom, guidance, creativity, dedication, and love for the arts they have shared with us.