Before They Were Educators: Peter Savage, School of Stage & Screen
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 14:05
For Savage, his early days in Asheville bring back some interesting memories. For instance, Savage was involved in two productions in which somebody fell off stage.
“The first one was a production of ‘Dracula’ at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville, where I played Quincy, a part sometimes left out of plays. In the very last scene, I was ‘dead’ on the stage and all of a sudden I heard a thump,” Savage said. “I opened my eyes and sat up a bit only to see that the guy playing Dracula had accidently fell off stage because of the bright lights and fog machines.”
On the next incident, Savage said, “It was during a production of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and the guy playing the friar decided that he wanted his character to be blind, so the director gave him some Lennon-style spectacles. One night he was making a beeline towards the edge of the stage and we were all saying to ourselves, ‘It looks like he’s going to run offstage.’ And he did just that. It turned out that he was closing his eyes even though he had the glasses hiding his eyes.”
Savage also experienced one of the coolest occurrences he has had on stage in Asheville.
“I was at the N.C. Stage Company and was playing Horatio in ‘Hamlet’ and in the last scene, I said ‘Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ It was around that time in the play that the audience disappeared and I was ‘in’ Demark, the play’s setting,” Savage said. “I got real tears and became emotionally wrapped up in the play, which is scary to do because you can get lost in the role and possibly ruin the production. But it was cool to have that experience of getting lost in the role.”
After teaching some adult acting classes at A-B Tech in Asheville and leading some acting workshops with the Highland Repertory Theatre, Savage heard word from the co-founder of the N.C. Stage Company Charlie Flynn-McIver that Western Carolina University was looking for a professor in the then WCU Department of Communication, Theater and Dance before the department split.
Savage interviewed with Susan Brown-Strauss, fellow professor of theater and also costume design, and was awarded the position.
“I taught COMM 201 and also theater appreciation my first year in fall of 2004,” Savage said, who would move up to work more advanced classes like "Acting I," "World Theater," "Theater in Education" and even an “improv” class one year.
Since arriving at Western Carolina that year, Savage has gone on to build a steady résumé, both as an educator and director. Savage has directed on the WCU Mainstage with such shows as “Almost,” “Maine,” “Manuscript” and “Romantic Fools,” which was the first of installment of the new Niggli Series.
Savage has also become involved in the North Carolina Theatre Conference, a high school theater festival, hosting the event at Western Carolina for six years and being named to the NCTC Board of Directors this year, which he will stay on for three years.
Savage also recently took a part-time job as the director of drama at Asheville High School, where he recently finished his first Shakespearean production as director, “Romeo & Juliet,” which, he admits “exceeded my expectations.”
However, despite his amazing résumé he’s built while at WCU and his love for teaching, this will be Savage’s last semester teaching at WCU.
“My family and I live in Asheville, so the commute is tough five days a week. Plus, if I needed to get home for my ten-month old daughter it would take over an hour,” Savage said. “My wife and I spoke about this for months, and I’ve decided that it’s time for me to start working closer to home, which will give me the opportunity to be more of a dad and return to pursuing my professional acting career.”
Despite the bittersweet feelings he gets about leaving Western Carolina, Savage looks back on his eight years as “nothing but a positive experience.”
“I will miss my students and the faculty terribly. I’ve had such a good experience with these dedicated kids who love the craft,” Savage said. “I’ve also had personally challenging things like learning to direct that have made me grow as a person. If I can look back and know that I made a difference, then I am satisfied,” Savage said, recalling his experience with the students who saved his job a couple of years ago.
“Whether I taught a theater appreciation student answers to some ‘Jeopardy’ questions or helped an acting major to the next step in their career, for me, it’s all about helping the students and making a difference in their education.”