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UJ theatre director aims to bring opportunities to students

Progress UJ Mike McIntyre
Mike McIntyre, director of theatre at the University of Jamestown, works to give students a diverse amount of experiences while giving the community productions they will want to attend. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Michael McIntrye didn’t grow up in the world of theater.

Being raised on a farm in Tulare, South Dakota, McIntrye said exposure to the performing arts was limited. It wasn’t until college that he found his passion for theater.

“I was first influenced to pursue directing by theatre production professors when I was in college,” McIntrye said. “If I’m going to pick a lifelong career, that one looked good to me.”

McIntrye, the director of theatre at the University of Jamestown since 1996, obtained his bachelor’s degree from North State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he met his wife, Cheryl.

The couple had two sons before moving to Mankato, Minnesota, where McIntrye received his master's degree from Minnesota State University. Before graduating, Cheryl gave birth to their daughter.

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“We moved to Jamestown in 1995, and I was hired at UJ in 1996,” McIntyre said. “My wife was hired at Jamestown High School the same year.”

At UJ, McIntryre said he has worked hard to instill a positive environment for students in the theater department.

“I’ve only ever wanted to have students develop in such a way that they are able to go out and share their love of performance and play productions,” McIntrye said. “One area we do extremely well in is preparing students to go out and direct a play of their own.

“Success for us is students that go elsewhere and manage their own theater productions in other places, large or small. Success is being able to build confidence in our students.”

McIntryre said UJ produces four performances each academic year, with one in the fall semester and three in the spring. He said he hopes to increase the amount of productions in the coming years.

As to selecting what material the UJ theatre department will produce, McIntrye said diversity and social impact are two key contributors.

“I always look at a four-year span, which is typically the length of a student’s time here, and see if I’ve offered a diverse selection of productions for an individual student to experience,” McIntrye said. “It needs to be an experience that the student enjoys but also one that they learn immensely from.”

McIntryre said the audience also plays a vital role in what material he and the department bring to the stage.

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“We want the audience to enjoy it so they keep coming back,” McIntrye said. “We want the audience to be challenged by our productions but attracted by it as well.”

McIntryre said the age of certain plays can also reflect certain qualities in humanity that haven’t faded over time.

“It’s exciting to find relevance in plays that are 400 years old or 2500 years old because a lot of things don’t change. It’s interesting to find those things,” McIntrye said. “Theater always has to keep adjusting to lifestyles in one way or another. There are universal facts and there are things that never change in humanity.”

McIntryre said live theater finds itself competing with newer forms of entertainment such as movie productions, but the director said it has led to some positives for the world of theater.

“It’s kind of forced the theater to self-reflect on what we do well and what we need to continue to do well. The value of live performance can’t be found in other places, it just can’t,” McIntryre said. “There’s an immediacy there that you can’t get elsewhere and I don’t think that will ever go out of fashion.”

After nearly 25 years at UJ, McIntryre said his style as a director and his attitude toward students is just as important as the productions on stage.

“I don’t want to be in a situation where an individual wouldn’t want to participate because of my behavior. A good director should hope that actors and actresses come to the table with some of their own creative ideas,” McIntryre said. “A production becomes very diversified when it gets to the end result that way.”

McIntryre said this philosophy has attracted quality students to the UJ theater department for years, which makes his job easier and also creates an environment where students are able to challenge one another while also creating a support system.

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“We get to work with such a nice array of personalities at UJ … your typical UJ student is a really good young woman or man that has a really good attitude and is very easy to get along with,” McIntryre said. “Rarely do we attract students whose egos are so big that they end up grading others. The friendliness to each other makes it a very good environment to work in.”

Polly Peterson, the president of the University of Jamestown, said McIntyre has had a great impact on the university.

"Mike is somebody who exemplifies above and beyond," she said. "In addition to his teaching load, he works endlessly with our students in the theater and helps out with other areas in the performing arts as well as other areas on campus. He’s just a tremendous supporter of all our co-curricular activities for our students."

She said he also is accessible to the community because of the Reiland Fine Arts Center, she said.

"... he’s the go-to contact person for the Reiland Fine Arts Center, which often requires him to help out at weddings or be available when sound is needed for people that to use the Reiland or the DeNault Auditorium for their particular events, etc.," she said. "He does so so willingly and so kindly that I just think above and beyond doesn’t even seem to be enough when you describe Mike Mcintyre.”

Like any job, McIntryre has a pros and cons list when it comes to directing at UJ. His favorite part: watching the students grow.

“The confidence they gain and the recognition that they get at the end of a production, that’s my favorite part,” McIntryre said. “It’s one thing to direct a show, but what really counts and what really matters is the enjoyment the students get out of it and the feedback they receive after it.”

As for his least favorite part: the days “just aren’t long enough,” McIntyre said.

“Some people look at a clock and think ‘oh, it’s time to get off work’ but when a production is coming up and I look at a clock and think I’m running out of time because I’m literally counting the hours that we have left leading up to a show. That’s the stressful part.”

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