Many of our staff and faculty members live close to school, so anytime I’m off campus, I think about the possibility of running into a professor or other employee. It isn’t a bad occurrence, but it’s somewhat cringey to think about what to say to a professor outside of the classroom or context of a class. Even if it’s someone you admire or are very familiar with, there’s always a moment of silence where neither the student nor the adult knows quite what to say. However, this isn’t always the case. I saw a professor outside of the classroom and instead of it being awkward, it was invigorating. I saw him on a stage, in a costume, transformed into one of the most well-known gods of Greek literature: Zeus. Kinda cool, right?
I found myself in the second scenario a few weeks ago. Jude Sandy, an adjunct assistant professor in our Department of Theater, was in Trinity Repertory Company’s production of “black odyssey,” an adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Last year, Jude directed a show in which I was an ensemble member and he has since served as a mentor and role model for my career and artistry. The department organized a trip about a year ago to see another show Jude was in, “Othello,” in which he played Othello. This time around, the trip was organized by Professor of Classics in Theater Nina Papathanasopoulou for her class. A friend found out the class had a few tickets remaining, and she jumped at the opportunity to get us on board.
The company’s website called the show a “breathtaking, vibrant, and gloriously theatrical production” and “a lyrical, musical, and spiritual celebration of storytelling and what it means to find home.” Was it breathtaking? Yes. Was it also vibrant and gloriously theatrical? Yes. It was all of these things and more because everyone on stage was something I want to become, a Black-identifying actor. To know that you have a chance because other people that look and speak like you have one is an indescribable feeling that fills me with hope, drive and wonder.
The most encapsulating thing about the entire show was seeing Jude, a Trinity Rep ensemble member, on stage. It’s sometimes rare that we get to see our professors work professionally—we’re so accustomed to seeing them in a classroom. Many of the faculty at Conn have decades of experience working professionally in their respective fields, so if the opportunity comes along for students to get a glimpse into the professional non-teacher aspect of their career, we don’t hesitate to take part.
Jude’s next project is starring in the Trinity Rep’s production of the popular musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” as Seymour. I can’t wait to see him command the stage as he always does and the whole theater department will be cheering him on.