First-year theater instructor gets a feel for Lane
Although lead theater instructor Brian Haimbach previously worked in a city about twice the size of Eugene, Haimbach says he has enjoyed the perks of a small town school during his first year at Lane.
Haimbach received his Ph.D. from University of Georgia in theater history and criticism with a specialization in directing and new play development. Before moving to Eugene to teach drama classes at Lane, he traveled from Greenville, S.C., Haimbach says he enjoys the friendly small town feel of his new city and appreciates the vitality of local art.
Haimbach taught at Greenville Technical College as the head of its Associate of Arts Theater Program. Haimbach referred to the two-year college as a “big bureaucratic machine” with 30,000 students.
“It’s different. In the South, you have to deal with rednecks, and in the West, you deal with hippies,” Haimbach said. “Although it hasn’t been much of a cultural shock because 90 percent of what I do is with theater and most theater people are the same.”
Because Lane is smaller than Greenville Tech and the financial budget runs through the Student Productions Association, Haimbach finds that logistical things like getting costumes are much easier than before.
“Lane is smaller and a lot more easier to manage. The theater aspect of it is easier since it comes through a student organization,” Haimbach said. “The students here are a lot more focused theater students.”
Next year’s SPA president David Harvey described Haimbach as a man who knows what he wants with fantastic ideas.
“I thought he was sassy and hilarious,” Cristina Hernandez, SPA’s student activities coordinator, said when describing the first time she met him.
Haimbach also appreciates the large facilities Lane has for its drama students, considering GTC had to rent a theater downtown.
Even though Haimbach has only been at Lane for a year, his influence and direction have benefited the theater department. Haimbach worked with SPA to bring in a guest director from New York for next year’s season. He has also changed the calendar for next season’s plays to allow more time for production.
SPA President Tim O’Donnell appreciated Haimbach’s passion and hands-on teaching approach when working with students.
“He is very upfront. You know what he thinks. He doesn’t go to difficulty to hide it,” O’Donnell said. “Once you get used to it, it is incredibly valuable. Before you get used to it, you may think he is being hard on you. You have to get to know him, and once you do, it’s fantastic.”
Haimbach’s first year allowed Lane’s staff to get to know him before any major changes are made within the theater department, O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said Haimbach has been focusing on suggesting improvements and offering advice on producing a show. Some of these improvements include centralizing public relation efforts and merging those with the rest of the public relations department.
“I think the biggest thing I am glad about is that Brian is really committed to increasing our stature in the community and as a program,” O’Donnell said.
To increase Lane’s theatrical reputation, Haimbach entered six students into the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for the first time. Lane’s drama students had the opportunity to receive feedback at the festival from a University of Portland representative.
Haimbach taught four classes each term and assisted SPA in producing four plays this year.
Despite small challenges, such as working with a diverse student body and switching from working semesters to trimesters, Haimbach said that his move to Lane has been an alarmingly smooth transition.
Contrary to his previous experience, Haimbach appreciates that his office hours are used to his students’ full advantage. During this time, he is able to assist students in directing them either to a university or offering other options for their future.
“I’ve helped students find audition material, writing letters of recommendation, helping them find schools or things they might want to do when they leave,” Haimbach said.
Haimbach hopes that by creating more classes, such as an introductory class, and collaborating with UO in the future, he can lessen the burden for students worried about losing credits in the transfer. Haimbach worked for the University of Transfer Program, so he is trying to implement some of those tips at Lane for the theater students.
“I kind of have a problem with that,” Haimbach said as he explained his frustration with students not finishing their degree. “But we are here for that, to give people the experience to decide if they want to pursue that or not.”
One of Haimbach’s proudest accomplishments this year was playing Dan in Next to Normal for the Oregon Contemporary Theatre.
Haimbach said he encourages everyone to get involved with theater.
“Come see our shows. They are cheap and entertaining. Don’t assume that just because it is your fellow students that it’s going to be lame,” Haimbach said. “Our shows are good, and it’s my job to make sure they are good.”
Haimbach wants to encourage everyone to take an acting class. He said that a lot of companies, such as Bank of America, look for students with theater degrees or background because it illustrates superb communication skills, extreme dedication and the ability to interact well with others. Haimbach said that being in a show is a big-time commitment but is well worth it.