Pro­fessor of Theatre James Brandon holds his award.
Madeline Fry | Col­legian

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.’”