Robin Roberts, associate professor of theatre and fine arts division head, knows firsthand the impact faculty can have on their students. His experience in a small program at a big school led him to pursue theatre as his profession.
As a student at Clemson University in South Carolina, Roberts enrolled in a summer class devoted to mystery and suspense plays. One of the requirements was to work on the theatre department’s production of “Dracula.” Roberts surpassed the number of working hours required because he enjoyed it so much, and he eventually ran the dry ice machine and operated the trap door that allowed Dracula to make a quick exit during the performance. While there were only three theatre faculty members, Roberts said all were extremely supportive of both their students and each other.
Roberts went straight from college to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, where he was assigned three speech classes to teach during an assistantship. He enjoyed both experiences so much that he secured a job after graduation teaching full time at Clemson.
Roberts, currently residing in Franklin, Ind., earned his master of fine arts in playwriting from Southern Illinois University. He has a master of arts in theatre and speech from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree in English from Clemson University.
Before joining the faculty of Franklin College in the fall of 2004, he directed and taught not only at Clemson University but also at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield and Hanover College. He has worked professionally for theatres in North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Illinois.
While teaching at Franklin College, he has attended various conferences and written pieces for theatre. One of his greatest personal achievements is having his play, “Dilemmas with Dinner,” published by Playscripts, Inc. The play has been produced more than 50 times all over the United States, and also in Canada, Russia and Malaysia.
In Roberts’s first year in Franklin, he played Mr. Webb in the Our Town Players production of “Our Town” and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award by Encore, an association of community theatres in the Indianapolis area. Similarly, a short play Roberts wrote won an award sponsored by the TADA! Theatre in New York City and received a staged reading.
In summer of 2002, the Georgia Repertory Theatre professionally produced a play he wrote, titled “The Lizzie Borden Show.” Although he didn’t receive an award for the play, he was asked to stay in Athens, Ga., for roughly 10 days sitting in on rehearsals and discussing the play with the cast. He also spoke to theatre classes at the University of Georgia about playwriting.
“In December of that year a theatre in Seattle staged a production of it,” Roberts said. “It was interesting and exciting to see two vastly different interpretations of the play.”
He is also a member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. In August of 2013, Roberts attended the ATHE conference in Orlando, Fl., and was part of a panel discussion titled “The Three D’s of Approaching a New Play: Design, Dramaturgy, and Directing.”
After working at Franklin College for 10 years, Roberts still gets excited about teaching.
“Even though I have taught a lot of the same courses numerous times, each class is different because the students are different, so I never get tired of it,” Roberts said. “And as with a theatre production, I like the sense of community that develops during the course of the semester with a class.”
Roberts said his colleagues keep him excited, too, and it’s not just his theatre colleagues. He said “one of the great things about a small college is that you get to know people in other departments and other areas on campus.”
Roberts not only teaches classes, but he also directs productions for the theatre department each year. While he loves all the shows he has directed, certain plays for one reason or another came together in a special way, including: “How the Other Half Loves” (Fall 2005), “Ghosts” (Spring 2007), “Phedre” (Spring 2008), “Present Laughter” (Fall 2009), “The Little Dog Laughed” (Fall 2011) and “All My Sons” (Spring 2013).
Students do not have to be theatre majors or minors to audition for theatre productions, and Roberts encourages everyone to get involved. One way this could happen is through the playwriting course he teaches, which is part of the creative writing program he said he’s excited about.
Roberts and his department colleagues strive to make a difference in each student’s life.
“I’d like to see us continue to grow and get more students involved,” Roberts said. “And I’d like to generate more opportunities for student playwriting work to be showcased, either through staged readings or realized productions.”
Roberts is available to discuss the fine arts department and what a Franklin College liberal arts degree as a fine arts major or minor can do for you. Schedule a visit by contacting the Office of Admissions at (800) 852-0232.