Photo courtesy of Rick Klein

If you’ve been around the Schuster Theatre, chances are you’ve come across Father Shawn Clerkin. Father Shawn, the Director of Theater for Gannon University, is one of the more colorful faculty members at the school. He’s currently directing the spring musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. With this in mind, I decided to sit down with one of the school’s most devoted staff members and discuss the arts, college life and his upcoming production.

  1. Father Shawn attended Gannon University for his undergraduate degree and changed his major five times.

“I came to Gannon in the fall of ’81 as a student in the family medicine program… I started off in pre-med, then I was secondary ed. (education) chemistry, then secondary ed. (education) communications, and then communication arts, and then finally a theater communications major.”

        2.   In addition to being a theater professor, Father Shawn is involved on many campus committees.

“Currently, I am the chair of the learning outcomes assessment committee. I’m the director of theater; so, I’m in charge of the theater program, summer programs, student participation, guest artist hiring, and season selection. I’m also on the university’s International travel committee. My favorite committee that I serve on is the liberal studies committee.”

        3.   Father Shawn’s favorite part of the whole process of constructing a show is the opening night of the performance.

“In general, I love opening nights. I love the process leading up to opening to night… I like that process of getting something to where it launches. Once it launches, I want to move onto the next project.”

        4.   Father Shawn used an unusual method when choosing Forum as the 2013-2014 season’s musical.

“Last year I had a class in musical theater, and at the end of the class I wanted students to do something that was a little bit more application-driven. So I challenged them and said, ‘I want you to find a musical that you think would be appropriate for Gannon University.’ I challenged them to pick the musical, tell us about the musical, show us how it would be performed, and give us examples of scenes, music and dialogue. We, as a class, voted on which of these student presentations would be chosen. Mac Reed, a football playing communications major, put together a presentation for Forum. We realized we were perfectly matched for the skills and talents of that show.”

        5.   According to Father Shawn, the most challenging part of directing a show is keeping the student actors committed and engaged.

“Our students involved in theater are the kinds of students who are involved with leadership and other clubs and organizations… The hardest part is saying to them, ‘Okay, for these next two hours, I need you to be here and focused on this project.’ That’s a very difficult thing when students are in all kinds of different directions.”

Father Shawn is one of Gannon University’s friendliest and most helpful staff members. He is deeply devoted to connecting with students and promoting theater on campus. Be sure to catch Father Shawn and the rest of his cast in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on April 24 through May 3 at the Schuster Theatre.