Rhett Luedtke is a visiting professor in Hope’s Theatre Department for the 2022-23 academic year. In most cases, a visiting professor is asked to teach at a college that is not their own, for a set amount of time. Luedtke previously taught in the theatre department at George Fox University in Oregon.
George Fox is also a liberal arts college that is around the same size as Hope. It is a bit more conservative-leaning with its religious beliefs and has an additional two thousand graduate students and some online offerings.
After being in Luedtke’s Intro to Theatre class, I was privileged to witness his teaching firsthand. He incorporates his own lectures into our education, while also incorporating the textbook, and live texts/performances. Luedtke’s Intro to Theatre classes were even given the opportunity to see the live performance of “Come From Away” on Nov. 12 at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids.
Luedtke has talked about his experience at George Fox University a couple of times throughout his class, and what productions he could direct while working there. Due to this, I asked Luedtke what brought him to Hope. He responded, “I spent 19 years at George Fox, so part of it was the need for change and a new outlook in both life and in my creative outlook. Also looking for a community that’s willing to engage within society’s big ideas in a courageous way.”
Professors at Hope have a relatively set schedule and relationship with the rest of the staff. However, I was interested in seeing what it was like to be a visiting professor. “It’s nice, as I don’t have any administrative responsibilities. I can be an observer of all the habits of the department and the college itself,” he says, “However, I’m not responsible right now for carrying the weight of the big projects and leadership, and it’s nice to have a break from that.” Luedtke seemed relieved to be able to relax while pursuing what he loves: teaching and theatre. Luedtke tells his class that he has always found joy in teaching the art of theatre and that he is glad he can be part of it.
One project Luedtke is heading this semester is directing the fall production “Silent Sky.”
I wanted to gain insight into what Luedtke thought of “Silent Sky,” and the production of it with the knowledge of a visiting professor. He said, “I love ‘Silent Sky’. Great cast and great people. It’s a fun, open, loving, and creative design team. It’s been very collaborative. It’s been relatively stress-free too! It’s been a fun process.” Luedtke went on to say that he is glad that he gets to be part of the production team and that he gets to work alongside a fantastic group of individuals.
I then asked Luedtke if there were any parts of “Silent Sky” as a play that he didn’t enjoy, and what his favorite parts were: “I don’t know if I have a favorite. I really like the ending, but I also love just sitting and watching stories unfold. I like how Gunderson organized the structure of the play. I also don’t think that there is anything that I don’t like.”
One of my favorite parts about working in the theatre department is getting to know all of the different people who also work in the theatre. Therefore, I know that a production tends to have several things that go wrong leading up to the opening night. I asked Luedtke what the most difficult part was for him being the director of “Silent Sky.” Luedtke took several moments to collect his thoughts before turning to me and saying “I think part of being a director is honoring the voices in the room. I think good directors search for the best idea in the room, and the best idea is often not the directors, but rather the cast. Therefore, making voices be heard and ideas be shared is one of the most difficult things, alongside not letting my own ego get in the way.”
Luedtke was given the opportunity to direct a virtual production of “Silent Sky” towards the beginning of the pandemic. With that, he was zealous about being able to put the play on its feet for his first Hope College production.
Closing Remarks and Fun Facts
Due to Luedtke being a visiting professor, many non-theatre students don’t know who he is. They may hear his name from theatre students, but don’t pay attention to what he does.
I wanted to provide Luedtke with a chance to let the students of Hope know who he is, and what it is that he likes to do in his spare time. While Luedtke’s response was short, he said, “I am an avid cyclist, I try to average 3000 miles a year. The opportunity of being able to get out into nature, and not in a theatre or small space, allows me to clear my head and feel like myself.”
To learn more about Luedke and his work, make sure to catch the closing weekend of “Silent Sky” this coming weekend, Nov. 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30 p.m.