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‘We are storytellers’

Students showcase department through creative lens

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Photo courtesy of Parker Dean
Parker Dean, senior theatre and philosophy major, interviews Heather Himes, instructor in dance performing arts, for the YouTube series “Faculty at Places Talking About Things.”

At the beginning of the fall semester, Assistant Professor of Theatre Maya Fein asked her students in the public relations lab how they could showcase their department.

Parker Dean wasted no time raising his hand and enthusiastically telling the group how fun it could be to interview the professors in the theatre department about their lives. The senior theatre and philosophy major wanted to style the interviews off the Jerry Seinfeld show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

“Like a lot of my ideas, it’s one of those things where they just gave me the reigns on it, and I just went with it and came out with a good product,” Dean said. “The reaction was more ‘okay, that sounds pretty cool. Let’s see what it looks like.’ And it looked good so they let me do another one.”

Dean named the series “Faculty at Places Talking about Things.”

“I just wanted to make sure it was funny and we covered the topics we needed to cover,” Dean said. “It’s a very casual show. I knew exactly what I wanted, I knew the tone I was going for and I knew what I wanted the series to look like.”

Dean takes a faculty member from the theatre department to interesting places around Evansville and interviews them about where they are from, what they studied and what they teach at the university. Dean said the series of videos will be used for incoming freshman to get to know their professors outside of class.

“This is my baby,” Dean said. “I came up with it, I host the show and I also edit the entire thing which is a very long process. Each of the episodes, between shooting and editing, have taken about 40 hours to put up.”

Dean said he must give credit to the people behind the camera and the people he bounces ideas off of.

“It’s a group thing,” Dean said. “As much as I would like to say, ‘yeah, I did this amazing thing,’ they are an invaluable part of what we do.”

For the first episode, Dean interviewed Assistant Professor of Theatre Paul Weimer at the zoo. For the second, Dean interviewed Heather Himes, instructor in dance performing arts, on downtown Main Street.

“We shape each episode off the personality of the people we interviewed,” Dean said. “(Himes) is a much more extroverted person. She always said she is a comedian in another life, so I tried to showcase the bits of that, whereas (Weimer) has had a very interesting career in New York City so I really tried to go in depth on that.”

Dean said even the music chosen for each of the episodes is reflective of the personality and interests of the faculty member.

Dean said that while the purpose of the series is to promote the theatre department, he also hopes it will promote the interesting places around Evansville.    

“As far as I can tell, most people don’t look at Evansville as a very high energy, a lot to do kind of city,” Dean said. “My hope for the future is that we nail all the cool places in Evansville and have quality content that is funny and engages people. I hope to make people take a second look at the city around them and find fun interesting times to be had.”

Through creating the series, Dean said he has learned how to let the other person talk and tell their story. Dean said the interviews are about the faculty members and not him as the host.

“We did a preview of the first episode for the department and after the preview, someone in the department posted on Facebook saying how much they enjoyed the things (Weimer) had to say, and that’s really nice to hear,” Dean said. “I have heard that multiple times for both episodes. The feedback that I enjoy the most is from students who say, ‘wow I really needed to hear that from a person I look up to.’”

Sydni Abel joined Dean for the second episode as his camera person.

The senior theatre arts major said Dean knew she had a minor in digital video and loved filmmaking, so he asked her to help with the project.

“I said ‘absolutely,’” Abel said.

Abel said she has loved being involved with the YouTube series. Abel is working toward being in film and television after she graduates and said projects like this are perfect to put on her website and portfolio.

For me, the career route that I am going, I need to create projects to make my way,” Abel said. “I know that I have to build and work on projects that show my work and represent my skills so being able to work on projects like this, that is what is going to help me more than anything right now.”

Abel said she thinks the series is great for incoming students and those who don’t know much about the theatre department. She said they are taking the project above just sitting down and doing an interview.

(Dean) is really great to work with and he has so many great ideas,” Abel said. “Sometimes I have to sit him down and tell him that he has to narrow down his ideas because he has so many, but he’s just brilliant and he knows exactly what he wants. (Dean) is really good at talking with people and he’s really good at getting to know them and asking a lot of good questions.”

Abel said she hopes to draw interest from the university community to the theatre department through the series.

“A lot of students don’t know much about our department, but we have some really great shows,” Abel said. “We are storytellers and we love doing this stuff, and we want more people to come and enjoy what we do. I think representing our department through these videos is really going to do well on campus.”

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‘We are storytellers’