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Pete Rydberg New Director of Theatre

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The new director of theatre at Emporia State University brings to campus his expertise in theatre history, acting, directing, devised theatre, theatre for social justice, and public speaking. Dr. Pete Rydberg is also certified in fight directing with a specialty in unarmed, rapier and dagger, broadsword.

Rydberg took over the ESU program in June after the retirement of Dr. Jim Bartruff, who helmed the department for 16 years. Rydberg formerly was the director of theatre, chair of the Department of Music and Theatre, and associate professor at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

Before joining Thiel College in 2013, Rydberg earned his Ph.D. and master of science degrees in theatre and drama from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

“Before I arrived at ESU, I was excited to be tapped to carry the torch forward, continuing a long tradition of producing top-notch theatre while preparing young professionals for successful careers in the arts,” Rydberg said. “What has been even more overwhelming has been the enthusiastic embrace I have received from the ESU community. I am very excited about rolling out our vision for the future, bringing out students, university, and community together in a shared celebration of great storytelling.”

The COVID-19 pandemic already has changed the upcoming ESU Theatre season.

“We will produce ‘Medea,’ originally slated for spring 2020 outdoors as the Greeks would have done — with a much better sound system,” Rydberg said.

Two shows scheduled for the spring 2021 semester are “The Wolves,” which Rydberg describes as “a stirring high school women’s soccer team drama which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize,” and “Avenue Q, a boisterous, multiple-Tony-award-winning musical described as a “play with puppets but don’t bring the kids.”

“Might we have to change plans as we go? Absolutely,” Rydberg said. “But artists are incredible at adapting to changing circumstances — and ESU Theatre will deliver an exceptional year of programming.”

Other changes in store include moving all theatre ticket sales online.

“Patrons will need their ticket in hand — or on their phone — to enter the theatre.,” he said, noting the box office will still be staffed for help over the phone or in person the day of performances.

“The health and safety of our audiences and ensembles are our highest priority,” he said. “All live performances will observe social distancing guidelines, and each show includes an exclusive performance for risk-averse patrons.”

About ESU Theatre

Emporia State University operates one of the oldest — founded in 1913 — and strongest theatre programs in the country, with well over a thousand graduates. Many are working across the country in professional and academic theatre. At ESU, students can earn a BFA or BA in theatre, or gain certification to become a secondary teacher in our BSE program in speech and theatre. We are proud to be a part of an outstanding department, Communication and Theatre. ESU Theatre is an active participant of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.