Conservatory of Performing Arts

Get to Know Tracey Brent-Chessum, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Point Park

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Pictured is Tracey Brent-Chessum. Photo | Olivia Ruk

Hailing from Los Angeles, Calif., Tracey Brent-Chessum, Ph.D, was recently hired as an assistant professor of theatre in the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University. She has taught music and theatre on all levels of education, winning awards for curriculum design and performance. She is equally active in the professional theatre realm, having worked as a director, producer, music director and conductor, and sound designer at theaters across the country.

How do you incorporate your professional experience into your classes?

I bring my new work development practices into scene coachings: I ask students to be aware of the musical’s structure, to be thoughtful about why characters are doing what they are doing, and to ask questions and find answers. I do my best to teach students to be collaborators in the actor-director relationship, but also in the actor-creator relationship by bringing new musicals to campus for readings each year. 

"Students work to give 100 percent in the same way I do ... I’m in a place where we are all working towards the same goal and have a similar view of hard work and success."

-- Tracey Brent-Chessum, Ph.D.


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What lessons have you learned in your career?

Work hard always — even in the things we don’t believe are important. Be curious and keep learning. Make room for unconventional journeys: have a map, but be willing to take the detour. Value people over projects, while settling for nothing but hard work. Take care of your community — whatever that may be. Be in tune with your physical instrument — take care of yourself. 

What do you enjoy most about Point Park?

Students work to give 100 percent in the same way I do. I have worked at several universities, but it finally feels like I’m in a place where we are all working towards the same goal and have a similar view of hard work and success.

What inspires you in the classroom?

I always love when students make bold choices, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. If a student can make a thorough, logical case for a character or scene decision, I will always applaud them. Commitment to a scene is always inspiring — I would rather watch a performance that’s strong and wrong than timid and letter perfect. 

What can a student expect in your classes?

I will never be satisfied until every question is answered and applied, and I will walk with them to explore each question. I will celebrate their well-reasoned failure as the best way to learn in the arts, but I will celebrate just as much with them when they make a breakthrough. I accept nothing less than their best. 

What advice do you have for students? 

Remember that you are not a tuba. You are your own instrument — an organic, distinct human being, so the way you ‘play yourself’ as an artist will change all the time. Learn how to teach yourself. Practice balance. Practice patience. Take care of yourself and your community. Look to your future: not to worry, but to find the path forward.

Photo by Olivia Ruk, senior mass communication major

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