New year, New director, New program.


Headshot of PLU Artistic Director Tom Smith. Photo courtesy of Tom Smith.

By: Madison Willis

As we come to the end of this year, let’s take a look back on the accomplishments this campus has made, specifically in the theater.

New theatrical Artistic Director, has laid down a finalized structure for the theater program, and pushed for more diversified courses. He has also planned to incorporate an original play into next year’s production season.

Artistic Director Tom Smith, has spent his first year at PLU establishing new classes for students to part take in, as well as instruct many of them. He has scheduled the production of his play, Aunt Raini, for next year.

Smith started playwrighting as a student at Whitman college. He entered a playwrighting contest that offered $500 to the winner.

“Which was even more money back then,” Smith said. Smith entered the contest twice, finally winning his second year.

He eventually went on to work at the Creede Reparatory Theater in Colorado, after he had graduated. The theater would perform plays that were either too long or had too many characters for the actors cast. Smith was asked to contact the shows playwright to help modify the plays.

After years of going through this process Smith went up to the theaters artistic director.

“You know, it would be easier for me to write you a play then it would be to try and modify these pre-existing plays,” Smith said.

The theater hired him to write for them on a regular basis.

Smith then moved on to become a college theater professor, proficient in acting, directing, and playwrighting. He looked for ways to get his scholarship out into the world. He realized that playwrighting was a much easier way to do that, opposed to directing.


Smith performing as Gaston, in a production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Apart of the American Southwest Theater Company. Photo courtesy of Tom smith.

According to Smiths website,, his plays have won national and regional awards, including the 2004 Robert J. Pickering Award for Excellence in Playwriting, the 2004 ATHE Playworks Award, the Orlin R. Corey Outstanding Regional Playwright Award, the Richard Odlin Award, and a Seattle Footlights Award.

The incorporation of smiths play in next years season, has created a unique opportunity for smith.

“I have never directed one of my own plays before,” Smith said.

On top of this, the department has made major changes to it’s foundation, including marketing and organization.

“this has brought more excitement to the program,” said Blayne Fujita, sophomore, “It allowed the department to be more proficient with work.”

Smith has collaborated with others in the department to create a new curriculum for this upcoming year. They utilized feedback from current students and alumni to create a variety of courses offered and a variety of productions.

This curriculum is in the approval process, and will hopefully go into effect by next fall. Aspects of the new curriculum include; exploring the possibility of adding a BFA in musical theater, an improv class offered year-round, and more design opportunities for students involved in faculty productions.

Smith has used his first year at PLU to: establish a relationship between himself and his students, create a clear structure and frame work for the department to build off of, and push for a broader and more updated curriculum. He also wishes to increase marketing for the program.

“I think Tom is a wonderful teacher,” Fujita said, “he really personalizes each education for his students.”

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Smith interacting with an actor in class. Photo courtesy of Tom Smith.

Smith dedicates himself to his students and his art. Smith’s passion for theater comes from his knowledge of its vital importance to society

“Theater has the ability to unite us and connects us with each other in a very unique way,” Smith said,

“it is not only just actors, theater can be for anyone, whether you are an english major and want to write plays, or a computer tech major and want to design lights. Theater is for anyone and everyone.”

Next year’s theater curriculum is still under consideration. However, the theatrical season has been approved, including the production of Smith’s Aunt Raini.

Smith encourages all students who wish to immerse themselves in theater, “to come out and get involved, because there is a place for you,” Smith said, “even if it is just in the audience.”



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