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Retrospective: Retiring Professor Phyllis Gibbs reflects on long career in Theatre Arts

Oct 1, 2015

After a 45-year run, Phyllis Gibbs — Flagler College’s longest-serving professor and a pioneer of the college’s Theatre Arts program — retired this past spring. News and Information coordinator Bobbie Stewart sat down recently with the legend to discuss Flagler’s beginning days and the value of the big stage.

Q: When you’ve been here for this long, you’ve witnessed a lot of change. What stands out to you?
A: How much things have changed at Flagler. When I started (in 1969), there were no majors, maybe some concentrations. It was more of a liberal arts education with maybe a concentration in one area or another, none of which was theatre. … When I came here I started out teaching five English classes, then it went down to four English classes and a theatre class and then three English classes … It took six or seven years until I reduced all the English courses down to theatre.

Q: You obviously have a passion for the stage. What would you say is the value of theatre — even for non-theatre majors?
A: Oh, there’s so much value. You get something in theatre you don’t get somewhere else. You find a sense of identity. Acting on stage helps you get over fears you may have. Being able to get up as a group and work as a team makes you have to rely on one another for support. It’s really a transformative area if you allow the creative to come through.

Q: Is there a favorite line in theatre that speaks to you?
A: (Without pausing) Yes, from Shakespeare. He said, ‘The purpose of playing is to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature.” In other words, we’re imitating life. That was Shakespeare’s view of what acting is all about … we’re imitating life. The better we’re at it, the better we can create it.

Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: I hope the students have enjoyed the classes and learned something from me. ... I got flowers from a student I only had for a year and a half and she said, ‘I’m teaching today because you inspired me.’ If that’s true, if I inspired students along the way, that would make me very happy.

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