Artistic director Jeffrey Chips
I like to think that my workday begins at around 8:30 most nights, when my kids are asleep, and I can finally pick up a script to study or memorize, answer emails, update the website, or plan my next big idea.
I suppose I didn't approach my career in a traditional way at all, and I hope that brings a certain level of uniqueness to my art. You see, I never moved to New York or LA like a lot of theater majors do after college. Instead, I decided to get married and get connected with the theater scene in my hometown of Pittsburgh.
When I ultimately did decide to leave Pittsburgh to expand my horizons in the theater, instead of a major theater city, we settled on the small town of Staunton, Virginia, home of the American Shakespeare Center, where I trained at the Blackfriars Playhouse and earned an M.Litt and MFA in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College.
Upon completing my MFA, we had the opportunity again to move to a major theater scene, but instead we made the obvious choice to return to the city we love, surrounded by the people we love, and where I continue to grow and thrive in my craft.
Instead of pursuing a straightforward career as an actor or general theater practitioner, it's always been my desire to build something that engages the community around me and enriches the lives of the people within it. My father is a dentist, and my mother is a school nurse, and I've spent my whole life admiring and revering them for being such prominent pillars in their community. They've dedicated their lives to the health and well being of other people, and I continue to strive to live up to their example. While I don't have the skills or knowledge to improve a person's health, nor do I possess the kind of means that would allow me to tackle a major social cause, I do have the skills and a strong desire to entertain and enlighten those around me through art, particularly through Shakespeare.
For me, it's not enough to simply perform, take a bow, accept payment (usually), and move on. If I'm going to perform, I want to reach as many people as I can in a profound way, including those in underserved communities or anyone who has given up on Shakespeare or the theater.
At this point in my life, with a wife, two children, and a home of my own, it would be easy, and sometimes all too tempting, to pursue a less adverse career path. The juggling act of working a full-time day job to pay my bills, doing theater work on evenings and weekends, and still managing to put my family first and foremost can be overwhelming, but I can't think of any other life I'd rather be living in any other city. I hope to continue to grow Steel City Shakespeare Center into a full-fledged enterprise with a city-wide reputation, and I hope you'll continue to support us on this journey.