While this past season at the School of Theatre + Dance (SOTD) marked the 50th anniversary of the Constans, it also marked the school’s last season with Dr. Jerry Dickey as its director.
Dickey became director of SOTD in July 2012, but it was not his first time stepping foot on the University of Florida campus.
“I had been at the University of Arizona for 25 years when I saw this position opening, and it was a special chance to come back to where my roots in theatre started, my passion for performing arts flourished, and, for personal reasons, where my wife and I met,” Dickey said. “It was really a unique and special opportunity.”
From a BFA theatre student rehearsing in hallways during the 70s to director of the School nearly three decades later, Dickey has truly been a champion for performing arts at UF. During his tenure, SOTD has greatly expanded in size, student body and opportunities for students to develop their craft. These include the professional partnerships and internship programs that have recently been established with both the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville and the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota. Additionally, Dickey redesigned the school’s summer programming to now focus on the development of new plays in partnership with Tilted Windmills Theatricals, including the off-Broadway hit PUFFS, Or: Seven Years of Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic by Matthew Cox.
“We, as a school, are providing a residency for Tilted Windmills to bring commercial theatre projects with guests artists to work with student actors and designers in the last stages before they go on to commercial theatre in New York,” Dickey said.
Dickey has been able to cultivate these exciting opportunities while still holding a full and fresh season of shows each year.
“All of those things are really special and can give the school a unique brand and identity that not a lot of training programs can offer,” he said.
With a new show opening almost every month, it was impossible for Dickey to choose a favorite.
“I look around at all the faculty and students and I see such professional creativity and growth in many respects, so it’s hard to single one show out,” he said.
While he will not be too far away—given his return to the classroom as a professor in the fall—Dickey still had words of advice and encouragement to share.
“Try to do your work to make the other person in the room look really good,” he said as advice to students. “The performing arts world is a very small group of people and if you treat them well, they will want to work with you.”
Professor Ralf Remshardt will be taking the reins as interim director starting in fall 2018.
Since Dickey announced that he is stepping down, sentiments of gratitude having been pouring out from current and former students, faculty and staff members.
“As an administrator and educator, Jerry’s mind and heart are exceptional—exemplary—and I think that we’re lucky that he’s just changing hats and not addresses,” said Professor of Acting Tim Altmeyer. “Jerry is the kind of leader who makes it easy to get behind him—tireless, unflappably good-humored, level-headed and thoughtful in his words and deeds. He’s brought a lot of blue ribbon stock to the school in his tenure.”
Dickey’s feelings toward the faculty and staff are mutual.
“The people I work with every day and on every project are incredibly dedicated and hard working,” he said. “It’s been an honor to share the space with them."