Faculty Focus: Teddy Eck (Theatre Arts)
Teddy Eck, New Theatre Arts Chair, Combines Diverse Experience with Strong Commitment to Students
By Lewis Leader
When Teddy Eck arrived at Monterey Peninsula College early this year as the new chair of the Theatre Arts Department he brought with him a resume far longer than Hamlet’s famous soliloquy and a perspective on life far more sanguine than that displayed by Shakespeare’s arguably most famous character.
And when the question was posed whether to be or not to be the head of the famed MPC department, Mr. Eck eagerly accepted.
“The selling point for me was the chance to build a program,” says Mr. Eck. “The facilities and theatre itself are fantastic and there are wonderful opportunities to use the tech, but it's the ability to reinvigorate the Theatre Department at MPC and within the community that excited me the most: to be able to dive deep into what the need of the students and community is and then have license to be able to create. That is very exciting!”
After arriving at MPC, “I spent the first six months getting to know the community and MPC and looking at the curriculum and productions and putting in place the 3-5-10 year plan. Now it's about implementing that plan. There's a good deal of excitement and change that is starting to happen within the department. It’s a great department and team and we’re working hard to realize the new vision and direction forward.”
Most recently Mr. Eck was an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Theatre at San Diego City College and at Southwestern (Community) College in Chula Vista. Other experience includes Associate Director of Individual Giving at the San Diego Repertory Theatre and teaching at UC-San Diego, the University of Memphis, and the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.
A native of Topeka, Kansas, he grew up in a family in which music played a key role. He first performed in plays and sang in the choir in the sixth grade.
“I never had an ‘ah, I want to do this for the rest of my life’ moment,” Mr. Eck says. “I really just wanted to keep diving deeper into the art form. So it's always been an evolving process trying to learn more and going further with what do the performing arts mean and how to connect with people. It started with acting, then directing, writing, producing and so on.”
He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance at The New School in New York City and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Memphis. His training incudes voice, vocal coaching, theatre scene study, TV and film, financial management and human resources policy, all of which are valuable as department head.
At theatres throughout the country, Mr. Eck has directed numerous productions, including Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, and Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Mr. Eck also has done adaptations for the stage.
Among his many roles have been the Prince of York in an off-Broadway production of the Shakespearean drama Richard III, whose cast included multi-Emmy winner Peter Dinkledge of Game of Thrones fame, and in regional theatre productions including Meet Me in St Louis, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
On television Mr. Eck has appeared in Law and Order, SVU, and One Life to Live. Movie credits include the lead in Altamont, a featured role in The Notorious Bettie Page and a small part as a corporal in General Grant’s headquarters in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Mr. Eck’s professional memberships include the Actors Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
He and his wife, Leigh, have two young children.
Mr. Eck sees a universality in his craft.
“One of the best things that theatre and the arts has to offer is the chance for human connection and the building of empathy, something that is sorely needed in today's world,” he says. “Student success in theatre means leaving with the confidence in being who you are and being able to empathize with other people, cultures and situations outside of your own.”
On a campus with a student body as diverse as MPC’s, he has that opportunity.
“Whether it's taking an Intro to Theatre, Acting, Writing, or Production course, you are going to be exposed to theatre as an art which came from the Greeks’ Festival of Dionysus, a celebration of life, which I try to instill in all of the classes: its ups, downs, and everything in between.”
This term he is teaching Introduction to Theatre, Writing for Theatre and a combined class of Acting 1 and 2, and the department is now rehearsing Frankenstein, the initial play Mr. Eck is directing here.
Frankenstein will open on Thursday night, October 10, on the Morgan Stock Stage (Main Stage) at MPC and run through Sunday afternoon, October 27. During that period it will be performed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be 12 performances in all.
“Frankenstein hits many of the points I wanted in a first production at MPC: a chance for high school outreach (the book is on the California High School reading list), a title that had never been done in the area before, and a play that would allow for vast creative choices and interpretation,” he says. “I am also facilitating the New Works Festival, which will be an evening of new short plays written by MPC, Monterey High, Seaside High students, as well as members of the community.”
And his overriding philosophy for the department?
“We are a Theatre Department at a college,” Mr. Eck says. “Therefore I feel it is our job to be focused on the students and how to facilitate their roads to success. However, students can mean those just out of high school seeking a transfer degree, those out of high school seeking to better understand themselves before locked on to a track, individuals who are pursuing a professional career in acting/performing, and those 'non-traditional students' who are coming back to school to dive into a self-passion. The students must always come first.”