Andrew Loehman

Teaching

Sergio Costola

Assistant Professor of Theatre

From his “incredibly straightforward” manner to his “quick wit and quirky sense of humor,” Sergio Costola creates a classroom experience where, according to students, there’s “never a dull moment.” Oh, and “his cooking skills are amazing.” When it comes time for his Zagat review, look for Costola’s name to be in all-caps.

Ever since his first year attending the University of Bologna in his native Italy, Sergio Costola knew he wanted to be a teacher. He began his studies in film, but was converted to critical and historical theatre studies after attending a class on medieval and renaissance theatre. After he graduated from the University of Bologna, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Costola’s work as a theatre historian and dramaturg includes helping directors select which plays to produce in a given season, collaborating with directors and designers on possible new approaches to plays, and leading discussions related to performances.

Costola said he was drawn to Southwestern because he wanted to work at a school that only had an undergraduate program. At Southwestern, he was told that he could develop the new area of theatre history and critical studies. “It was a great opportunity,” he says.

“I had just gotten out of graduate school and I wanted a small school where you get to know most of the people and can make a difference” he says. Students majoring in theatre are now required to take theatre history and critical studies.

“Theatre is not only about how to be successful as an actor, but also why, where and for whom you do theatre,” Costola says. “It’s also about becoming an artist who can eventually have an effect on society. It requires a lot of patience, discipline and precision. It is a way of moving both the spectator and yourself.”

For the past three summers, Costola has taken Southwestern students to Bulgaria to participate in a unique theatre-training program called the Rhodopi International Theater Collective. This year, Costola was asked to create, in collaboration with students from Southwestern and Carnegie Mellon University, a performance piece based on material concerning jesters, buffoons and servants, and ranging from the medieval time up to the 18th century. “This program gives students an opportunity to work with internationally recognized scholars and theatre professionals,” Costola says.

At Southwestern, Costola has enjoyed teaching two First-Year Seminars and serving as a Paideia® Professor. “I’m having a great time with my Paideia® students; they’re a very engaging group,” he says.

He has also taken part in the development of a full-length opera that will showcase the newly remodeled Alma Thomas Theater in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts. The Color of Dissonance will be a Singspiel (musical drama) in five scenes, and will bring together the collective talents of members of the Art History, Studio Art, Music, and Theatre Departments. The project will be performed the first week of April 2009.

“I’ve changed a lot in five years, and I’ve learned a lot being at Southwestern,” Costola muses. “I’ve had a lot of mentorship, even outside the Theatre Department. You get to know people outside of your department, and I think that helps you in your work as well.”

Think like a Dramaturg

Thoughts that cross Sergio Costola’s mind at a performance

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.
–James Baldwin

Aesthetic values are not universal.

Space is a social product: how does this play interact with its audience?

Time and timing: why this play and why now?

Entertaining the audience might not have been the artist’s primary goal.

Theater or Theatre?

A quandary answered by Lacy Vain, Assistant to the Dean of Fine Arts, Sarofim School of Fine Arts

I use the word theatre when I refer to the art of dramatic productions to include playwriting, directing, acting, design of scenery and costumes, etc. So, the Sarofim School of Fine Arts has a theatre department with theatre faculty and students producing theatre in one of our two theaters, or anywhere for that matter.