When Millersville University professor Tony Elliot went on sabbatical this fall, he intended to reignite his passion for theater, gain new perspectives and learn how to better relate to his students. But now nearly halfway through his year long experience, Elliot is also being reminded of something else — he’s not twenty any more.
Elliot officially started his sabbatical on Sept. 23 as a production assistant at the Fulton Theatre for “Veronica’s Room.” He was one of two people in charge of props, sets and costume changes and maintenance.
“There is a lot to do and it has to be done correctly each performance,” explains Elliot. “It is all challenging, but rewarding as well.”
After passing his production duties onto another on Oct. 20, Elliot immediately moved on to rehearsals for “Beauty and the Beast” on Oct. 21. As a cast member, he experienced the exhaustion of pulling together such a large production in only three weeks. The show opened on Nov. 8 and runs through the end of the year with at least eight shows a week and sometimes two shows a day.
Other individuals with three decades of teaching and directing experience would struggle to take direction from stage managers almost half their age. But not Elliot.
“I am not in charge and that is great,” says the professor. “I can learn by doing and watching and listening.”
The original idea behind Elliot’s sabbatical was to return to the professional theater environment where his career began, rubbing shoulders with actors, directors, designers and craftsmen outside of the academic setting.
Elliot was partial to the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster City as the location for his sabbatical saying, “I respect the work that they do. I did shows here in the ‘70s and I love the space.”
The willingness of the theater’s artistic producer, Marc Robin, made Elliot’s endeavors a reality.
Although his sabbatical will extend until the end of the spring 2017 semester, Elliot is already looking forward to the many stories and experiences he can bring back to his students at MU.
“I will have a much better sense of what it is like to be a young, working theater professional so I can help them get started,” he says. “Mostly, I will be refreshed in my excitement about teaching them what I know and believe about the value of an education that includes theater.”
After “Beauty and the Beast” wraps up on Dec. 31, Elliot’s next steps at the Fulton are not yet finalized. In order to fulfill Robin’s goal of getting him in every department, Elliot may do research and dramaturgy, work in the public relations, marketing or education departments and be on the backstage running crew for upcoming productions.
Come out to the Fulton Theatre to enjoy their production of “Beauty and the Beast” and to support Elliot on his sabbatical. Call the Fulton Theatre Box Office at 717-397-7425 or visit www.thefulton.org to purchase tickets.