As ‘Falling’ opens at Fresno Pacific, new theater program director looks to the future
There’s a new face in Fresno Pacific University’s theater program. Mark Tyler Miller is taking over for Julia Reimer as program director. To mark the opening of the university’s new production of “Falling,” I caught up with Miller to ask about the show and his plans for the future.
Q: Welcome to Fresno. For a while, it looked like Fresno Pacific would drop theater. But you’ve been hired as the new full-time program director. What happened?
A: I wasn’t around for the actual discussions about theatre staying or going, but, I know that the FPU/Fresno Community are true advocates for FPU Theater. We have so much support from our community consisting of audience members, professors, staff, students, and the folks in charge of the university. We are very blessed to have so much support behind us.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you go to school?
A: I’m Mark Tyler Miller, but you can call me Tyler. I grew up at the very northernmost part of California in a town called Etna, just south of the Oregon border. I hold my B.F.A. in Theatre with an emphasis on Musical Theatre from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and my M.F.A. in Theatre from the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign.
Q: You were working as a professional actor when you were recruited to go to graduate school. What made you decide to take that path?
A: That’s a great question. I found in grad school that I truly love working with students — equipping them to be storytellers who move the Earth a little bit. I’m very fortunate to have some amazing students this first year at FPU, and we are looking for many more to join us in the future. My goal is to instill a practice of positivity, rigor, and joy in our work in class and also in my students’ processes as actors.
Q: Fresno Pacific opens “Falling” on Thursday, Nov. 8. It’s directed by Shannon Brewington. What does she bring to this show?
A: So much. She has been working night and day as she is not only directing the show but also designing the whole show! She is a wonder. She brings pieces of herself, her life to the work. I think the piece resonates deeply with her as a mom, and that is evident in the show.
Q: For those who aren’t familiar with “Falling,” what is it about?
“Falling” is about a family with an autistic teenage son. He is now at an age and size where they physically can’t control him as easily as when he was a child. The play shows what daily life is like for this family, and how they try to live out their calling to love someone who, at times, is difficult to love.
Q: How do you see the FPU theater program fitting into the larger area theater scene?
A: Julia Reimer, who has been the program director, has done a fantastic job with our students and also engaging with the community by helping to lead a summer Shakespeare Camp called The YES! Project (In collaboration with the Woodward Shakespeare Festival). I want to build upon the wonderful foundation she’s laid. Personally, I’d love for FPU to be a training laboratory for actors and designers. I’d love to see our program send humble, daring, deeply empathetic, loving artists out into our community and beyond with stories to tell and the technique and craft to tell them exceptionally. I’d also love to see more original work being created by our students and implemented in the community — original stories from this region of the country. Currently we are working on that with our Drama Ministry Team. The team is working on original solo shows that will be going on tour throughout the spring semester.
Q: What’s up for your spring show?
A: We will be doing a production of Jane Austen’s “Emma” directed by Brooke Aiello. Dates: March 21-23, 28-30 at 8 pm (Thursdays – Saturdays). Tickets will be live on Eventbite.com soon.
Q: What’s your dream show to put on at FPU?
A: Oh man! Gosh, it changes day to day. There is so much rich material out there. Here are a couple ideas that have been bouncing around: Chekhov, I LOVE Chekhov even though no one can keep the names straight, so perhaps “The Seagull” or “The Cherry Orchard.” I think “The Crucible” and “All My Sons” would be amazing to work on, I definitely want to do “The Christians” here. “It’s a stunning play. Also, “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall would be awesome. For musicals, I’d love to work on “Illyria” (a very funny modern adaptation of “Twelfth Night.”
“Once” would be amazing (also, I need to play Guy in “Once”, so, if you’re reading this and looking for an actor to play Guy in “Once,” I’m your guy …). There are many more ideas bouncing around.
Q: Tell us a little more about yourself. Do you hope to do any acting on the side? What do you like to do when you’re not on stage?
A: I hope to be working professionally in the summers with some of my good friends in Seattle or Illinois. Also, I am a writer, so I’m currently working on a new solo musical called “The Adam Bomb” which is about Adam, Eve, and a guy named Tim who is Eve’s new boyfriend. It is set in modern times, downtown. I just received a grant from FPU to develop the first production here at school, so I’m very excited for that process and I’m hoping to tour the show as soon as possible. When I’m not on stage I like to be outside. I love hiking, I love the beach. I like to be active. I also write and play music (acoustic guitar) and sing. I am involved with an awesome church in West Fresno called LifeBridge Community Church. I run the Young Adult’s group there on Sunday nights at 6 as well as play and sing on the worship team on Sunday mornings. Life is full, and life is good.
Q: Anything else you’d like the community to know?
A: We are always looking for students interested in majoring in theatre. We offer some really wonderful scholarships through our department but also, in general, FPU really goes the extra mile to make college affordable. Don’t let a perceived idea about cost stop you from chatting with me, or applying here. We WILL work with you! If you know anyone, or you yourself would like more information about our new theatre program, or events happening at FPU Theatre, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.