Secret lives of our profs

Naveed Islam

Timothy X. Troy has not one, but two plays opening this month. The first “The Sparks Fly Upward,” by law professor and Holocaust scholar Cathy Lesser Mansfield from Drake University, follows three families caught up in Germany during the Nazi regime. The second is “Cinderella,” a theatrical adaptation of the 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein telefilm, premiers on Nov. 8 at 8:00 p.m in Stansbury Theatre. Bringing these stories of genocide and war, of love and hope to life on the stage, requires an understanding of a vast scope of human sciences, a demand that Professor Troy is capable of and enjoys meeting.
Professor Troy did most of his growing up in Racine, Wis. in an Irish-Italian Catholic household. In high school he was “the kid who played football and did plays the rest of the year.” He then came to Lawrence to earn his B.A. in History of Ideas while still doing a lot of Theatre. “I was a History major,” he said, “because I knew that if I was going to be a director I would have to know the social context and the history behind the great works of theatrical literature.”
He pursued his interest in Theatre and directing further through graduate level studies at the University of Iowa. “The best experiences,” he recalled, “were working on plays with really good young playwrights and finding ways to use the resources of the department to make that theatrical vision come to life.”
After grad school, Professor Troy returned to Lawrence, teaching on sabbatical from 1989 to 1992 while still freelancing as a director and working on a number of productions in the Midwest. He was exclusively a freelance professional director for roughly ten years before he began teaching full-time.
“What I bring to my teaching is not only that ten year span of professional directing,” said Troy, “but I’ve continued a lot of professional directing even since I have been teaching, not as much as I did then but a lot of it.” His experience here in Lawrence “as a grown-up” has been longer than when he was a student; he graduated in 1985 and has been teaching here for the last twelve years.
In 2004, Timothy X Troy was honored with the Freshman Studies teaching prize. “I love teaching Freshman Studies. It’s one of the great gestures of our education because we as faculty do exactly what we’re expecting our students to do which is to bring openness and engagement to material we’re not already familiar with.” A liberal arts setting, Professor Troy feels, is the best place to explore Theatre.
“There is nothing that separates your whole educational program and doing Theater,” said Troy, “the fact that you’re a Theater major and taking classes elsewhere in the college isn’t a separate activity. Everything you know, as an artist in the Theater, you can bring and you should be bringing.”
“Cinderella” has been coming together slowly for some time now. “I’ve been hoping to do a Rodgers and Hammerstein for a while here,” says Professor Troy, “I wanted to be sure we had enough orchestra resources before we did it because typically Rodgers and Hammerstein’s scoring as musicals is very lush and full.” Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Philip A. Swan’s contributions were key to the production. When asked why he picked Cinderella, Professor Troy replied, “The story is deceptively complex. We all think we know the story because it’s so familiar and because it’s been done so many different ways but Rodgers and Hammerstein have a particular take on Cinderella’s journey and its one that highly values imagination and a noble heart.”
One thing he warns his cast and crew is not to “Disney-fy” it and inadvertently quote or allude to something done in previous treatments. In order to find a new way of telling such a familiar story, Professor Troy chose a particular historical lens to work with: “I asked us to go through the mental experiment of pretending that we were Victorian era people looking back at a particular art movement and I picked the Pre-Raphaelite movement. That period just offered a lot of wonderful approaches, a couple of which are a vibrant and saturated use of color and a storytelling approach to the visual image.”
When asked what audiences should expect from his treatment, he said, “We are rich with talent here at Lawrence so you will expect a very high degree of musicality, very confident acting and presenting of the story.”
In winter, Professor Troy will be directing the Opera “L’Etoile” by Emmanuel Chabrier. Along with directing Professor Troy is also focusing on playwriting. “I spent more time working on developing other people’s plays and directing. I remembered that I made a promise to rededicate myself as a playwright and I’m glad to say that I have.” Currently two of his plays “The Dublin Journal” and “The Life of Me” are under consideration at Theatres in the US, UK, and Ireland for development.
His commitment to Lawrence is based on his belief in the core mission of the university, “I believe in liberal arts and I think its best way to be an artist, to be an educated person and to be an active, thoughtful citizen.