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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Nationally recognized LSU director comes to NE

John+Dennis+gives+instruction+to+NE+drama+students+in+the+upcoming+production+of+Moli%C3%A8re%E2%80%99s+The+Miser.+Dennis+has+staged+many+productions%2C+including+at+the+Kennedy+Center.+Photo+by+David+Reid%2FThe+Collegian
John Dennis gives instruction to NE drama students in the upcoming production of Molière’s The Miser. Dennis has staged many productions, including at the Kennedy Center. Photo by David Reid/The Collegian

By Mario Montalvo/ne news editor

NE drama students don’t normally get the opportunity to work with a nationally recognized director, but this semester they are working with Louisiana State University professor emeritus and director John Dennis in his interpretation of Molière’s The Miser.

John Dennis, or J.D. as he is known by his friends and students, has directed more than 50 professional productions at regional theaters across the country.

He has directed plays at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., for which he received directing honors from a national committee associated with the American College Theater Festival.

“I’m just delighted,” Dennis said about his time spent at TCC. “I’ve got a cast that’s working their butt off, and people are exploring new stuff and learning new things about comedy and how to work it. I’m feeling good about it.”

Actor Josh Phipps, who plays Valère, is grateful for the opportunity to work with Dennis.

“We are super blessed to be working with him,” he said.

John Dennis gives instruction to NE drama students in the upcoming production of Molière’s The Miser. Dennis has staged many productions, including at the Kennedy Center. Photo by David Reid/The Collegian
John Dennis gives instruction to NE drama students in the upcoming production of Molière’s The Miser. Dennis has staged many productions, including at the Kennedy Center. Photo by David Reid/The Collegian

NE drama teachers Stephen Thomas and Jakie Cabe are both former students of Dennis.

“He’s a mentor to me, so it was kind of an opportunity to get to work with him again, and I couldn’t pass it up,” said Cabe, who also plays the miser. “We’ve got a rhythm going again.”

Taking direction from Dennis is like a refresher, he said.

The idea of having Dennis as a guest director at TCC came about a year ago when Thomas and his wife, also a former student, visited Dennis’ home in Louisiana during the holidays.

“Stephen said, ‘You should come over and do a play,’ and I said, ‘Well, invite me,’ and he did,” Dennis said.

For cast members Michael Spencer, Josh Phipps and Felicia Taylor, this is their first time working with Dennis.

“I love directors that will stop you mid-action before you even finish,” Spencer said. “He seems really out there, but then whenever you actually do it on stage and you actually commit to it, it’s hilarious and it’s fun and it makes sense. Listening to him talk doesn’t make sense, but doing it does. He knows his stuff.”

Although Spencer likes Dennis’ directing style, he said it took a while to get used to.

Taylor has also enjoyed the experience.

“Working with J.D. is blowing my mind because he makes me feel like a nothing, which makes me want to be a something in the end,” she said. “He’s awesome. We’re working with such a phenomenal director who taught our directors here too.”

Despite his rapport with his cast, Dennis admits he’s not easy to work with.

“They do know I’ll tell them the truth,” he said. “And we try to find some way to make it better.”

Phipps appreciates the challenge.

“It’s very frustrating, but that’s actually what’s great about it,” he said, “because as frustrated as I get, I know that he is making me a better actor. I know that he is pushing me to my limits, and he’s challenging me to make it real instead of acting on stage because it’s about realism. And that’s kind of a hard thing to get in your head, that you have to be real even though you know you’re saying set lines. But it’s definitely fun working with him, frustrating and fun.”

Dennis thought his trip to Texas would be like a vacation for him, but it’s proving to be hard work. However, he said he likes it.

In addition to the play, he plans to teach some acting workshops during his stay.

The Miser opens Oct. 5. Tickets are now available. They are $6 for general admission, $4 for seniors and non-TCC students and free for TCC students, faculty and staff. Call 817-515-6687 for reservations.

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