Adam Archer is a Columbus native who was one of many students to come through CSU during the rush of development in the arts over the last decade and a half. A theatre education major, Archer graduated and went on to become highly immersed in the Springer Opera House as an actor and educator for the organization.
Archer's roots run deep in our city, and because of his faithful dedication to the development of the arts in Columbus, Archer was invited back in not one, but two, important roles this spring.
We sat down with Archer to get a bit of backstory on what it was like to be a student and young artist in Columbus during such an exciting time for the arts, and to learn more about the two roles he's been honored to return for this Spring.
Q: What brought you here as a student at CSU?
A: I am from here. I moved her when I was around 5 and stayed here until I was 28. How I remember getting to CSU may be different than what actually happened. I didn't have great grades in high school because I was a lazy student. I hadn't signed up for an elective, so they just put me in the one that had space. It happened to be theatre. So I never did theatre until my junior year of high school.
I got into theatre and my grades got better and I found something I was passionate about, which I really believe is vital as a teenager. When it came time to apply for college, there wasn't anything else I wanted to do so I applied to CSU. I didn't know how likely it was going to be that I'd get in because of my grades, but I applied and they accepted me.
I like to think I got in because they were a very small program at the time. There were maybe 35-40 majors and we were on Main Campus and sharing a building with the rest of the art department. There were three offices and two old choir rooms in the basement that we rehearsed in. It was so diffrent than it is now, but it was so fun. I had the best time. I was there as a theatre major and received a Bachelors of Science in Theatre Education.
Q: When you graduated, where did you go next?
A: While I was in college, I worked in several other places. I did a summer at Barter's Theatre and then graduated in December of 2006. I got a job before graduation at Climb Theatre in Minnesota. I actually didn't walk because I was already needing to be up there for work.
I don't know what the relationship is like now, but when I was at CSU they had a wonderful relationship with Climb Theatre. Climb is an educational theatre company that tours the upper midwest and does in classroom and workshops on topics that schools request. We performed pieces on subjects like bullying or teen pregnancy and really anything you can imagine.
A lot of CSU students have gone on to work for Climb. They used to come and hold auditions. Maybe they still do? I'm not sure. But I do know for a long time, there was a strong relationship with Climb and CSU and it was a great thing.
I got my first job as a lead teacher for them. CSU helped out a lot with that by not only facilitating the audition but also by providing experience for students during their degree plan for students. Brenda May Ito, who was one of my teachers, runs a touring group for CSU that takes our productions into local schools. I was a part of that and they're still taking programs to schools now. If it wasn't for CSU providing that experience before I graduated, I likely wouldn't have gotten my first job with Climb.
After working for Climb, I went on to work for a theatre in Athens, Georgia before coming back to teach at the Springer.
Q: :It's clear that both CSU and the Springer have played active roles in your career. What has your time at the Springer entailed?
A: Yes. I taught for them first and then worked for them for the remainder of my time at the Springer.
I began teaching at the Springer in 2008. Before that, I was working in sandwich shops. The Butler's Pantry, if anyone remembers that place. (laughing)
For Springer, I initially taught some acting classes but through my time there, I've taught just about everything for them. My first show with them was Crimes of the Heart.
Q: Was education your main role during your time there?
A: Well, yes. Sort of. I taught for them for a long time, but in conjunction with that, I was also in shows. Then, I became the No Shame Theatre director for about a year and a half to two years.
Then, I worked full time for them for about two years after that as one of their Education Assistants. Within that role, I developed curriculum and study guides for educational shows and organized buses for shows, I was in shows, etc.
My favorite thing I got to do at the Springer was that I wrote and produced two sketch shows in 2012 and 2014. The first one was called I Tweeted on My iPad and I liked It" and the second was called Oops! I Tweeted Again. They were very unique shows that the Springer took a chance on and it meant so much to me. In the shows, we utilized the growing idea of social media and actually took our iPads around the audience and created an interactive comedy theatre piece using social media. We received a grant from the Knight Foundation, and we also got early access to Google Glass as it was coming out.
I look back now, and it was an amazing opportunity to have been a part of those shows. So many actors that have gone to do some incredible things, were in that show. It was a very cool experience for all of us, and it meant so much to me that Springer took a chance on us when they put it in their season. It meant a lot to me, and is an experience I'll value forever.
Q: What was it like to be a part of the generation of students that saw such an enormous amount of growth in Columbus' arts & cultural development?
A: As a student, I was really fortunate to be coming through both organizations at a time when things really began to grow. I have always loved the arts in Columbus, and I am really proud to have been a part of the community as it grew.
I was talking with Larry Dooley this week about what the CSU Theatre Department has now and is looking toward in the future. It's amazing. What they have now is really incredible and it looks as though it will just keep getting better.
When you look at what CSU is now, and the Springer is now, and the entire downtown area of Columbus is now - it's really amazing that our generation, and you were a part of it too, came along really at the start of it. I like to think that our generation, due to the quality of the work we were putting out and the effort we put in as students, were a part of that. And to be able to be a part of that group of students and young professionals who were here at that time is really cool.
Q: How have you seen your relationships with CSU and the Springer evolve over time?
A: I live in Chicago now where I work for Second City. I was on their touring company for about two years, and had the privilege of touring all over the country and working with some really incredible people. While doing that, I also became an understudy for them. I no longer tour for them, but am still an understudy for their shows.
I also do quite a bit of teaching in Chicago. I teach improv classes and team building workshops for large corporations.
When I stopped touring, I reached out to Paul Pierce and let him know I would like to come home and visit family for a bit this year and possible work for the Springer again.
He was about to start casting the season, and offered me the role of in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I am playing Gooper, who is the brother of one of the leads and is just trying to do the right thing. We open January 24 and run through February 3, and the cast is amazing. It's a really fun show and everyone should come see it.
A scene from 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' opening January 24 at Springer Opera House. Photo by Matthew Swindell.
Q: You're also working as an artist in residence for CSU while you're here, correct?
A: Yes. As I was going back and forth about whether or not I could feasibly come and do the Springer show with my schedule and everything, CSU called and offered me the opportunity to be the Shae Barnett Visiting Artist this semester.
For those that don't know, Shae Malenne Barnett was an honor graduate of Auburn High School who also had attended Randolph Southern School in Shellman, Ga. She was a sophomore theatre performance major at Columbus State at the time of her death on Nov. 1, 2011. The residency was created in her honor for the theatre department to bring in professional artists to work at CSU each year.
I never really knew Shae Barnett but I know many people who did. I know how much she impacted their life in a positive way. The fact that I’m here as an artist in her memory is a true honor.
It's an honor to get to come back as an alumni in this way. It's been amazing.
Q: What are you doing for your residency at CSU?
A: I am focusing on teaching improv to as many of CSU's students as I possibly can reach during my time here. I love being an alumni and I love the way CSU and Cameron Bean continue to grow the program.
CSU has a really wide alumni base across the country. There are many people who have been very successful, and the alumni stay in touch. We recently gathered in New York City to see Michael Stiggers on Broadway. There were about 30 of us from all over the country. We had the best time supporting him and catching up with one another. It was really great.
To be a part of that group of individuals and then be chosen as the Shae Barnett Visiting Artist is a real honor. I've always wanted to come back and do improv with CSU students. There is such an audience for it, and before I left Columbus I had an improv group that toured around doing all sorts of events.
There is an improv group at CSU that I am working with. Thankfully, they are very talented. I've worked with a lot of college improv groups and you never know what you're going to get. CSU's team is fantastic. A lot of that is due to their incredible teachers and mentors who are constantly providing a feed of talented improv actors who work with them on a regular basis. I've gotten to come in and work with them off of this great momentum provided here to CSU's students.
Q: One of my favorite things about our community is that theatre education is so valued from the earliest ages. Springer's Theatre for the Very Young, which also has a show going on this weekend, is allowing children to be exposed to very high quality theatre pieces from birth. That exposure translates into children advancing into Springer Academy, and then into their local school systems, and then eventually into places like CSU. It's really an incredible quality of our community that we have such high level theatre experiences valued for students of all ages. We have a sustainable pathway for theatre education for anyone who wants to participate.
A: You're exactly right. I was fortunate enough to get to work with Ron Anderson when I was here. The quality that has been maintained and continues in the children's theatre is really, I think, due to the work of Ron Anderson. He instilled the lessons and his vision of what the academy could be, and now it continues to provide such a high quality theatre education. Sally Baker is doing a phenomenal job and new amazing things.
My job here now, aside from doing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, is that I'm also teaching improv on Saturday at the Springer to third graders through high school students.
At CSU, I'm the Shae Barnett Visiting Artist and teaching as many students at CSU as possible. I'm meeting with the Senior Seminar class, working with the Acting II class, and working with Rachel Blackburn's Devising Theatre class geared toward comedic performance. I'm also working with CSU's Improv Group to put on an improv show that will go up a few days before I leave. I am here until February 13.