After being a costume design professor for 21 years, the University of Rhode Island’s David T. Howard was selected as the new Theater Department Chair.
Howard is the successor of Paula McGlasson, who is stepping down after 18 successful years of leading the department and its various productions.
“Paula and I are friends and I have been sort of her ‘foot soldier’ for many years,” Howard said.
Working closely together in a small department for over 20 years helped him understand the organizational structures of many different aspects. Howard has had assistance from several other faculty members with taking over his new position.
“Everyone at the department, including Bonnie Bosworth, our assistant, [and] Sil DelSignore, our secretary, really helped make everything happen clearly and smoothly,” Howard said.
Howard plans to continue costume designing for the department in addition to his promotion. His most recent work can be seen in the opening Greek double feature “Woman & War.” This show incorporates the old comedy “Lysistrata,” written in 441 B.C.E., and the tragic contemporary play by Euripides called “The Trojan Women,” staged originally in 415 B.C.E.
“Both of these plays deal with women and how they’re affected by war,” Howard said. “‘Lysistrata’ projects women protesting the idea of war by using an unconventional method, in a funny and whimsical way. ‘The Trojan Women’ is about the casualties of war and the tragic aftermath that women have to deal with. It seems like a very interesting book end, they seem to play off of each other.”
Howard has also collaborated on over 30 productions at URI as a designer, including: “Pride and Prejudice,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Into The Woods,” “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” and “Twelfth Night.”
Howard follows an organized system that students can learn and benefit from. The practice is generally followed throughout the production and design of theatre outlets across the country.
“You read the play, you do a lot of research and then you start to do what we call sketching- which in this case, means you’re bringing ideas to people for more conversations and more presentations,” Howard said. “After which, you come up with the final idea or renderings, that are just paintings of what the costume would look like or what we’re hoping the character would be.”
Professor Howard always encourages for his students, whether it is inside the classroom or in productions to constantly learn and mirror the kind of environment that encourages practicing and communicating with everyone involved.
“It could be the most beautiful work of art you have ever created but it won’t matter if it doesn’t tell the story,” Howard said. “So even if you’re in a creative rut or block, the only thing that’ll help you is just doing it or something related to it every single day.”
As chair of the department, Howard is looking forward to the upcoming productions this season: “Noises Off,” an animated comedy; “The Wolves,” a Pulitzer finalist about an indoor girls soccer team; “A Little Night Music,” an elegant show featuring concepts of desire, jealousy and regret will be following “Woman and War.”
“What is special about URI theater is that every play has a different and interesting group of people working on it,” Howard said. “I’m looking forward to them all and they’re all my favorites. It’s hard to pick just one.”
The opening weekend of “Woman & War” is Oct. 11-14. The second set of performances will be Oct. 18-21, in the J Studio at the Fine Arts Center. Ticket prices range from $20 for general audience to $15 for Seniors, URI faculty/staff and students.