Ever since Murray McGibbon was a sixteen-year-old boy, he has been directing and working on new creative projects. McGibbon is now an associate professor of acting and directing in the Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. In Bloomington he has directed over two dozen plays, including a recent production of King Lear, where actors used the original pronunciations for the first time since 1606.
“Theater is a more extraordinary, powerful societal tool. Often I don’t think we understand that its value is not just in entertaining or educating people, but in edifying people and giving dignity to life as well. It helps us understand the human condition in a way that no other thing on this planet can,” McGibbon said.
McGibbon met Rebennack in his Directing 1 class. McGibbon thought that Rebennack had good ideas and suggested that he take Directing 2 with graduate students and direct a play before he graduated. When McGibbon noticed that Rebennack was not very well read in plays, he suggested that he come to office hours and they would find plays for him to direct. When he arrived, he told McGibbon that he wanted to write his own play. It is unusual for directing students to write plays, as students who write plays are generally studying to be playwrights and not directors.
“I think it was his unusual artistic approach, the fact that he’s an independent thinker, the fact that he thoroughly believes in himself, and the fact that he will listen to an instructor because he wants to learn more and he feels that he’s got something to learn,” McGibbon said.
McGibbon believes that theatre is a difficult profession because it requires continuously doing new things, as audiences will become bored if they are not challenged. He says that audiences may be forgiving in the beginning, but will eventually look for something new with another entertainer. Rebennack continued to ask for McGibbon’s advice and was interested in improving, something McGibbon says is important for all students.
“Seek out your professors—I mean, that’s what we’re there for. And if the door’s closed, knock on it. And keep knocking on it until somebody answers,” McGibbon said.