Arts & Culture Faithful Creativity
Theatre Season Honors Retiring Professor
“King” of the Stage
By Kelsey Chase | Photos by Luke Rutan
The Winter Quarter production of King Lear was directed by Professor of Theatre Andrew Ryder, with scenery design by Richard Lorig and costume design by Sarah Mosher ’02.
The wind shrieked, the rain whipped, and a rash and ragged old man stretched out shaking hands to curse the weather.
The setting is E.E. Bach Theatre at McKinley Hall. The play, King Lear. The actor, George Scranton ’69, Seattle Pacific University professor of theatre.
Scranton starred in the title role in the SPU Theatre Department’s 2015 winter production of King Lear, his final performance on a stage he first took 49 years ago as an undergraduate.
“I asked George if there was something he’d always wanted to do and hadn’t done,” King Lear director and Professor and Chair of Theatre Andrew Ryder says. “He said, ‘I’d really like to do Lear,’ and then he began working on lines six months before we even cast the show.”
That dedication is part of Scranton’s legacy, according to former student and current adjunct professor Candace Vance ’94. Vance will join the theatre department full time as an assistant professor following Scranton's retirement. Scranton’s legacy includes the annual chili cook-offs and Easter dinners he hosts for faculty and students, the intricate pencil notes he takes as an actor and a director, and a commitment to theatre as an incarnational act.
“I never really saw God in theatre until I took USEM from George,” Nicole Song ’14 says. “On the first day, he opened the Bible and read Genesis 1:1. We’re created in the image of God, he said, and we’re also creative. I’d struggled to reconcile it, and he lives it every day.”
That’s every day for almost 50 years. Arriving in 1965, Scranton joined James Chapman’s brand new drama program, and in 1970 he created SPU’s traveling Chancel Players, which he wrote for and directed. Amid stints in graduate school at Seattle Pacific and the University of Washington, he became a full-time faculty member in 1973.
Since then, Scranton’s classes have become bookends for theatre students, welcoming prospective theatre majors in “USEM 1000: Page to Stage” and preparing them for graduation four years later in the theatre capstone course, “Art and Religious Experience.”
“He’s given a lot of spiritual direction to the program,” Vance says.
The 2014–15 season is committed to celebrating Scranton’s impact on the department. Vance, who directed the fall production, Lost in Yonkers, first assistant-directed the show under Scranton 20 years ago with a cast that included her husband, Sam Vance ’96.
Lear mirrors one of Scranton’s early roles at SPU, as a Lear-inspired character in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Ryder says this final performance showcases the best of his colleague as a person, a professor, an artist, and an actor.
The Seattle Pacific theatre season concludes with Arlene Hutton’s As It Is in Heaven, an ensemble musical tale Scranton first directed 10 years ago. It follows a group of Shaker women whose lives are upended by a newcomer with visions of angels and revival music. The play is punctuated by hymns sung a cappella. The show runs April 23–May 2, and Hutton herself is making the trip to see it.
“As It Is in Heaven was such a good experience, I wanted to see what would happen if I did it again,” Scranton says. And, he adds with a chuckle, “I wanted to go out moving from hell toward heaven, from screeching at the elements to harmony.”
Were you one of them? Were you part of the Theatre Department? Share your memories here.
Dr. Scranton was my USEM professor my first year of college, in 2012. Since then, he has remained an inspiring, generous, wise, and talented mentor. He has been such a blessing to study under and know.
Mallory Loomis, SPU Junior
Thursday, March 12, 2015, at 5:45 p.m.