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Tony Elliot takes his final bow at Millersville University

Tony Elliot finishes his 17 year run at Millersville University. (Photo courtesy of Youtube.com).

Josh Rittberg

Arts and Culture Editor

Tony Elliot began his time at Millersville in 2002. Since then he has directed a multitude of plays and musicals at the university. Some of Tony’s favorite directing projects at Millersville include “The Venetian Twins”, “School for Husbands”,  “The Complete works of William Shakespeare: Abridged” and “Bury The Dead”. He says that “Part of the reason they stand out as fond memories is because often they were shows no one thought would work”. For “Bury The Dead” specifically, Tony really had to fight for the show to be produced on campus, as it was one he felt a lot of confidence about. Not all shows work on campus, but in making theatre you have to be creative and take risks. This is certainly something that has been seen consistently throughout Tony’s career here at Millersville.

Each new show to direct presents a new opportunity to make something great and truly spectacular. Elliot  says that “For each show, you are starting from scratch, you are starting building a group of people who need to work very closely together.” Trust is a large part of the creative process as the professor says that students “have to grow together”. You never know how an ensemble is built on a production, and with “Almost Maine” for instance, that particular group became close just from “sitting and watching each other and supporting each other”.  As a director, Tony tries to bring his experience of being an actor and he says that is what makes it work. He constantly tries to figure out how to make the material land on its feet, but until you work with the actors you don’t really quite know how to do so. Tony specifically points out a scene called “It Hurts” from “Almost Maine” which didn’t quite click until much later in the creative process. Tony didn’t know how he was going to communicate his message with the actors, yet one day he says the scene just clicked. He always stresses the actors “Go too far”, encouraging them to take creative risks and to pull back from there. If the actor doesn’t take risks and give the director options to work with, the process can be muddled. Tony has had the privilege of directing those who were new to theatre, along with veterans of the theatrical work. Yet, the joy and satisfaction of the creative process carried through in all of his projects.

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Along with being a director of theatre here at Millersville, he is also a professor.  As far as classroom memories, Tony remembers fondly the students who had a good conversation and keep the class moving. He especially enjoyed teaching his intro Comm 100 classes,  as it is a chance for him to meet people from other departments and students from every walk of life on campus. For the class, Tony makes students see a Millersville production as part of the course. One of his favorite stories actually was from a student he met during a Comm 100 class.  Through a conversation, this student began to work in the theatre department and eventually became a theatre major. This student is now working as a stage manager in the real world. Tony always intended for his Comm 100 students to be audience members for the rest of their times here at Millersville. The theatre program is not very large here,  yet Tony always tries to attract non-majors, as they are the ones who typically discover a love of the arts. Theatre is for everyone, and one reason Tony loves this program so much is because it is a “generalist” program for the participation of the entire campus. Inclusivity and collaboration in theatre is important, and certainly one of the highlights of the Millersville Theatre program.

During his time as a professor, Tony a couple of years ago, also got the opportunity to take a sabbatical at the famed and renowned Fulton Theater in Lancaster, PA. This was certainly a big jump and welcome challenge for Tony, as after spending years as a director and professor, at The Fulton he suddenly was in positions he had not seen or been a part of since being a freshman in college. It was a time for Tony to watch directors and actors, and even go back to performance himself. He was in the ensemble of the theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast”,  and even was an understudy for the role of Maurice, Belle’s father. Although he had been directing for years, being back on stage, Tony says that “I felt about as new as any freshmen I ever grabbed off the street here and thrown into a show.” Although he acted himself before becoming a professor, he was much older in “Beauty and the Beast” than when he first began acting. Being an understudy as well, there is an added pressure as Tony says , “You are sort of on your own, you don’t get rehearsal but all of a sudden you are supposed to know everything.” The experience was a welcome and rewarding challenge for Elliot. It was a great reminder and a chance for him to  step back, but it also reinforced a lot of things he knew and believed, and gave him the opportunity to work with great people and scripts.

Tony hopes that in student theatre experiences at Millersville that theatre is something they keep pursuing, as he views theatre as a lifetime sport.  It is something you can play at for the rest of your life. Whether that is being a stage manager or just an audience member at a piece of theatre, he wants to build good audience members with critical minds who realize some shows you like and others you don’t. He always finds it a thrill to run into past students of his who continue on with theatre, whether they pursue it as a career or just as a love or hobby. From his time at Millersville, Tony takes away a ton of fond memories and good times. Although the curtain is closing on his Millersville career, he has made a lasting and vital  impact on campus that deserves applause as he takes his last bow as a director and professor at Millersville.