Thinking Outside of the Black Box
CLASS OF 2001
In 2001, Charlie Pepiton received his degree in theatre arts from Wayland Baptist University after successful years as an active performer and student. His success, however, did not end with Wayland’s theatre department. After leaving Wayland, Charlie went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Idaho in 2003. Since then, he has traveled across the globe, has directed numerous productions, and has taken a position as an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at Gozaga University in Spokane, Washington—experiences that are built on the skills he gained at Wayland.
“My favorite memories from Wayland all revolve around the black box theatre, Marti Runnels, and the close group of theatre students. We worked hard. We had a good time too, of course, but we were always in the black box working on something.”
Knowing that the hard work helped prepare him for a rewarding career in the arts, Charlie fondly recalls the long hours of rehearsals, set building, and projects that took place in the black box.
“As a theatre major, my time was overwhelmingly spent in that one spot on campus. If I wasn’t rehearsing for a show with Dr. Runnels, I was working on projects or performances for a theatre class. If I wasn’t on stage, I was helping to build the set or focus the lights.”
While the task might seem daunting to some, Charlie notes that theatre relies on industrious individuals. This is a trait that has served him well since leaving Wayland behind, especially in his work with the Square Top Theatre and his teaching and directing at Gonzaga University. However, the skills he learned at Wayland also made a difference abroad where he taught and directed theatre with the U.S. Peace Corps at Guizhou University in China.
“While in China, I directed cross-cultural productions of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. The latter production was invited to perform as part of the Chinese Universities Shakespeare Festival in Hong Kong.”
In 2010, Charlie worked with Damon Falke to produce and tour the premiere of his play The Sun is in the West, which illuminated questions of fading cultural particularities, localism, and the unreliability of memory. Now, as the producing artistic director at Square Top Theatre, Charlie directed Laura, or Scenes from a Common World (2016) and Falke’s Now at the Uncertain Hour (2013). Both productions explore the borderlands between live theatre and elements like film, live music, broadcast radio, and mediated performance.
“One of the gifts of Wayland’s theatre program is that everyone learns to do everything. It’s important for theatre artists to cross-train like that and to figure out how to make their own work. Instead of waiting around for a gig, theatre makers should be able to dive in and start producing their own work. Of course, that takes guts and a broad understanding of how to produce theatre. That’s something that started for me at Wayland.”