Spotlight on Harrison Long: Training the scholar-artist
By Michael Ruther
Harrison Long’s inspiration to teach comes, in part, from the fact that his family includes a long line of teachers and preachers. His father, both grandfathers, three of his uncles and an aunt were ordained Methodist ministers. His mother and both grandmothers were teachers. Long grew up watching his father preach, and through his father’s oration, he watched lives change for the better. Also, Long confesses, “I was a terrible waiter.”
Harrison Long is an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies and the coordinator of the acting concentration at Kennesaw State University, as well as a Cobb County native. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting from Florida State University.
Before teaching at Kennesaw State, he was an instructor at several schools, including Marymount Manhattan College, St. John’s University, Columbia University’s Summer Theatre Institute, Southern Methodist University, Virginia Governor’s School of the Arts, the University of Tennessee, Georgia State University and Clayton College and State University.
He is impressed by the passion, eagerness and camaraderie of the students he teaches at KSU. “Teaching requires me to articulate what I believe about my discipline in a very specific way,” says Long. “I learn a great deal from my students. They make me a better teacher, a better actor and a better person.”
KSU’s theatre and performance studies program is unique because of its emphasis on the “scholar-artist.” “Certainly our students acquire the nuts and bolts of theatrical craft, but they also master research, analysis and communications skills,” he says. “In addition, our students study the art of performance from an anthropological standpoint, examining the roles people perform both on and off stage. In this way, theatre becomes a paradigm for self-examination and social awareness. The process is enormously beneficial. Artistry isn’t only about entertainment; it is a vehicle for meaningful personhood.”
There are KSU actors on the stages of every major theater company in Atlanta, including the Alliance Theatre, Theatrical Outfit and Actors’ Express Theatre. Many are working professionally in theater even before they graduate. “In recent years, KSU’s reputation has grown within the local and regional professional communities. One reason is our extraordinary students. They lift each other up and hold each other accountable. They spur each other on to higher and higher levels of achievement. It’s exciting to witness their growth. Every year, our students get better and better.”
According to TPS student Jim Wallace, "Harrison is absolutely committed to the success of his students. If he doesn't have time when we need help, he finds a way to make time. Harrison is extraordinarily perceptive. He notices little things that have a big impact on the quality of a performance. He doesn't skimp on his critiques of our work, but he does so with love. He is, quite simply, a wonderful professor and a joy to know as a human.”
Rachel DeJulio, another student of Long’s, adds that he “pays special attention to each individual to help us grow into strong, successful theatre artists. I admire his ability to push his students beyond our comfort zones to enhance our strengths and give us the tools to recognize our weaknesses.”
In addition to teaching and coordinating the acting concentration, he is also on the Undergraduate Policies and Curriculum Committee, the College Council for the College of the Arts and the Assessment of Learning Committee. He recently played the villain in “A Man for All Seasons” at Theater in the Square, and is currently casting the first production of the KSU 2009-2010 main stage season, Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors.”
In spite of a long list of national acting credits, his proudest accomplishment is being a father. He has two sons, ages five and two.