Why I Teach: Jeffry Casey, Theater Professor

smarkeyFaculty & Staff, Top Story, Z2

Photo: Jeffry Casey and theater Norwich student actors pose on the construction site of the future Pegasus Player theater.
Norwich University Office of Communications

December 4, 2017

Assistant Professor of Theater Jeffry Casey (third from left) is a playwright and director who joined the Norwich faculty in July. Teaching classes on theater, literature, writing and public speaking, he describes himself as the “Swiss army knife” of the English department. Casey directed student actors in the November 2017 Pegasus Players production of two Harold Pinter plays, “Party Time” and “The New World.” We recently asked Casey—seen here on the site of the new $24M Mack Hall construction project with students Sachi de la Cruz ’21, Nick Veldy ’21, and Nathan Ures ’21—what inspired his career.

Why I Teach:

“When I was in Kindergarten, I kept talking in class. One of the teachers tried to humiliate me by making me teach the class. It was this massively malicious sort of way of humiliating me to get me to stop talking. I think at that point, I spent the rest of my time in school, all two decades or however long it was, thinking about, Could I do this? … Could I do this better? was always my question.

I grew up in rural West Texas, where I endured lots of bad teaching. Whenever I would get angry at that, I always thought, How could this be better? How could this be improved? Long before I ever got a chance to teach, I was thinking about pedagogy. I mean we stick people in these classes for whatever it is, eight hours a day for twelve years, and we have been doing it the same way for how long? I always wanted to imagine just any sort of different way of doing it that would make it more exciting, because I was generally so bored.

By the time I got to college, I just loved the discussions. We were talking about all this stuff. You can see all my books. I’ve got philosophy, literature, theater, poetry, sociology. I just loved sitting down and talking about all of this stuff. It is something I actually can’t live without is that talking.

Hearing what students have to say is an important component of that. Every night during play rehearsals, a student would bring up something that I didn’t realize about the text. I think the nature of being good a teacher is just being a student with the students and discovering the text anew every time. Part of why I don’t really lecture is because I want [my students] to say things to me. Because I’m sick of my own voice. I’m sick of my own thoughts. I’m with them all the time.”

Photograph by Sean Markey