Robert Colby selected as Performing Arts Chair fall 2018


Photo: The Berkeley Beacon Archives

Pictured above, Performing Arts Department Chair Bob Colby.

By Kaitlyn Bryson

Robert Colby will be the chair of the Performing Arts Department next semester. Photo: Hardik Pahwa/Beacon Correspondent 

The performing arts committee selected Robert Colby to strengthen communication between students and faculty as Performing Arts Chair starting fall semester of 2018.  

Colby started at the college’s Department of Performing Arts 41 years ago as an instructor in theater education and then transitioned to a full-time professor. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in theater for young audiences and directing.

Colby also spent a total of four years as faculty assembly chair from 2000-02 and 2015-17. This position gave him more contact with higher-level administration, specifically regarding inclusivity on campus.

“I want to redouble [diversity and inclusion efforts] particularly in relationship to Emerson Stage and the opportunities it offers students of color, and our audiences,” Colby said. “So … we fully commit to the goals of diversity and inclusion of the college and particularly for what students were asking for very clearly last October.”  

Melia Bensussen, performing arts chair of 11 years, will return to her previous job as producing director of Emerson Stage on June 30 after finishing her contract.

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“I have absolutely no apprehensions about [Colby’s] leadership,” Bensussen said. “I am very excited about how great he will be for this department.”

To find a replacement, the department put together a search committee of students, staff, and full-time faculty for input on the decision. Colby went through eight interviews with constituencies in December prior to the announcement.

Colby is shadowing Bensussen at several meetings to better understand the function of his new role. He also went to the chair forum, which invites students to share their thoughts on issues concerning the department.

“[Shadowing] has been a good opportunity for me to see how parts of the chairs’ jobs function that I didn’t see as a faculty member in the department,” Colby said.

Senior Khyati Sehgal had Colby as a professor for “Theatre for Young Audiences” last fall.

“[Colby] knows how to navigate a classroom and keep students engaged,” Sehgal  said. “He knows how to take multiple voices into account and hold all of those voices together in one space.”

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