Professor of Theater James Brandon says he’s a little too young for a lifetime award in theater, but the judges at the National Communication Association don’t seem to think so.
On Nov. 17, Brandon received a Distinguished Achievement Award for Scholarship, Pedagogy, and Performance at the association’s annual conference in Dallas, Texas.
The award’s three categories reflect his achievements in various aspects of theater, from presenting academic studies to developing unique teaching methods and directing plays.
Brandon said he was surprised and pleased to receive the award, but the honor isn’t just for him.
“Yeah, it’s my award, but people recognize it for the work here at Hillsdale,” Brandon said. “To me, of course it’s important to my career and my professional development, but it’s also important that our name is out there. And I want to promote the scholarship, and the teaching, and performance that happens here.”
This semester Brandon teaches courses on understanding theater and theater history.
“He knows the material he teaches backwards and forwards,” senior Elena Creed said. “I’m often wowed by his ability to rattle off historical and theatrical facts, names, and dates. His pool of knowledge is so deep and is obviously indicative of a life dedicated to learning and study.”
Junior Austin Benson has also taken classes with Brandon.
“What sets him apart as a professor is the infectious energy that he brings to the room,” Benson said. “I think the root of it all is the fact that he cares so deeply about what he’s teaching.”
In February, Brandon will direct the Tower Players Production of “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov, which follows the growth and conflicts of four artists.
“He is a very sure director,” Creed said, “and leads his creative team and actors with a firm grasp of what the final product should be and the steps needed to get there.”
One thing that distinguishes him as a professor, Brandon said, is his focus on the study of theater as a discipline, not just a trade.
“We really take seriously the sort of idea that students of theater need to be students of ‘theater,’ not just of their craft but of the whole history and the literature and the criticism,” he said. “We say, ‘You’re training to be a human being. And by the way, you do some theater while you’re here.’”