Excellence in Teaching Award

David Kaye

Associate Professor of Theatre—Dance
College of Liberal Arts

David Kaye

"I try to awaken and nurture the artist in each individual student."
—David Kaye

When Dave Kaye calls out, “Mill and seed,” 12 student actors stumble about, trying not to bump into each other during this first theatre exercise.

“Groups of four,” he says. “Make a letter. Again, nonverbal.”

The actors split, form groups, and create M’s and T’s. Half an hour later, when Kaye repeats, “Mill and seed...,” the actors mix easily and evenly about the room.

In just two weeks, UNH’s social change theatre troupe, WildActs, will develop a play that addresses some of the personal challenges faced by first-year students. They’ll use techniques they’ve learned from Kaye such as improv, video replays, and on-the-spot script writing. In addition to entertaining sketches, they’ll develop scenes around more serious issues such as eating disorders, substance abuse, and sexual harassment.

Kaye’s office is high ceilinged, big enough for rehearsing scenes with some comfortable furniture for conversation.

“All theatre, from Sophocles to Simon,” he begins, “is always about the day when the you-know-what hits the fan. To act is to do.”

Kaye’s work in theatre runs the gamut, from musicals such as Grease, to an “ensemble-devised play,” The Palestinian, to Electra, a classic Greek tragedy. His own preference?

“I hesitate to embrace the idea of catharsis—that you leave the theatre cleansed by the experience,” says Kaye. “Hamlet is a cathartic play. Although Hamlet is killed, you feel that justice is served.

“My own inclination is toward Brecht. He felt that you should leave the theatre full of questions, awakened to a sense of responsibility.

“Now more than ever people are isolated by their ear buds and computers. They’re disconnected. Theatre depends entirely upon a sense of community.”

After this year’s WildActs play, about 800 first-year students left the theatre having shared a powerful common experience and with lots to talk about.

“As a teacher, I try to awaken and nurture the artist in each individual student,” says Kaye. “Part of an actor’s training is to move away from ‘pretend.’ An actor must be able to access those emotional depths on stage. It takes training, courage, and empathy.”

—Carrie Sherman

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