NORFOLK, Neb. – There are few things bigger in Adam Peterson’s life than his love of theater.
That quickly becomes apparent when he starts to discuss the Northeast Community College theater program.
From studying traditional British theatre in London to studying Russian theatre in Moscow to studying performance in Bali, Peterson brings a global perspective to the program.
Growing up in Norfolk, Peterson knows what it is like to be from northeast Nebraska and be curious about the world. That’s part of what led him to pursue theater for a livelihood.
“Theater is for everyone,” Peterson said, “not just artists. It’s just storytelling, such as what has been taking place for centuries around campfires.”
His desire to share his passion for exploring life is not that surprising considering that Peterson is hoping to spread his love of learning about life through the arts. To say he likes “drama” isn’t a bad thing.
Peterson has directed many of the plays put on by the college with the Norfolk Community Theater for 15 years. The cooperative venture that began decades ago enables students to perform in a greater variety of plays with some more experienced performers. And the community benefits from this partnership as well.
Still, as Peterson told a group of students recently visiting Northeast from Columbus High School, theater isn’t just about acting on stage. And Northeast is small enough that students learn by doing, including working behind the scenes. Jobs include costumes, set design, publicity or about any interest a student might have.
Northeast puts on four shows a year, three of which are co-produced with the Norfolk Community Theater, which began in 1964. The final show, which will be in late April this year, is put on by the students. Peterson said those working on a show spend so much time together that they become an “adopted family.”
“We spend so much time working on these shows that your family and your friends tend to be the people you are working with, night after night after night,” Peterson said.
Northeast is fortunate because so much of the campus gets involved. The first production of the year usually includes the building construction students building the set. Faculty and community members also get involved, filling a variety of equally crucial positions.
Students who attend Northeast may earn an associate degree in general theater studies. It also is designed for students who want to transfer on to earn another degree, such as a specialty technical degree.
Northeast’s theatre program has an articulation agreement with the University of Nebraska at Omaha where all the college’s theater credits transfer. And for high school students, Northeast offers online dual-credit courses for classes that cover introduction to acting, applied theater, play production and design.
Northeast also offers theater scholarships, with some theater majors having 75% of their tuition paid for through a performance grant when they step on campus.
Another popular option is for students to major in theater and then earn an education degree. That enables them to teach theater or find a job in technical theater.
Northeast students also get the opportunity to travel, including attending the annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. It includes watching professional and college productions, attending workshops and mingling with thousands of other theater students for a week.
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Students performing need to think and react quickly. Here, Adam Peterson of Northeast Community College takes students through a drill by pointing at a student to get a reaction from the students on each side. (Northeast Community College)