February 9, 2017

Backstage at the Egyptian: Interview with Paul Kassel

Interview Conducted by Kevin Ray – Egyptian Theatre Intern

Paul Kassel is the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Northern Illinois University. I had a chance to interview Paul about the upcoming inaugural Winter Convocation of the College of Visual and Performing Arts here at the Egyptian Theatre. This is one of many special events held here at the Egyptian Theatre every year.

Kevin: Tell me a little bit about this event?

Paul: This is the first ever convocation for the entire College.  See invitation below.

Kevin: This is a first time event, where did the idea for this come from?

Paul: The idea originated when I learned that this sort of thing had never been done before.  In my previous institution this had been a regular practice at the beginning of each academic year.  But the Schools here are very busy in the fall, so we found a date in February when things are a bit quieter and everyone might need a lift.

Kevin: Why was it important for you to host this event at the Egyptian Theatre?

Paul: Part of my vision for CVPA includes ENGAGEMENT.  I want the work of our students and faculty engaged with the broader community.  By holding the convocation at the Egyptian, we signal to everyone that our work is also the work of the entire region.  Our motto is Art for Everyone and Everyone for the Arts!

Kevin: What are you looking forward to most about this event?

Paul: I couldn’t pick one thing–the student art exhibits, the musical performances, dance, theater, and of course our special keynote speaker, Aaron Dworkin.  I’m most looking forward to the entire thing–it’s never been done and I’m eager to see how it all goes.

Kevin: What do you hope the students, facility, and staff walk away with after this event?

Paul: That we are all in this together.  As artists, scholars, teachers, students, staff, patrons, family and friends–art is a game that when well played, everybody wins.  I want theatre students who’ve never been to the museum to become regular visitors.  I want visual artists to go to plays.  I want musicians to see a dance, dancers to hear a jazz concert.  We are a community and together we are stronger, more resilient, and our artistry is greatly enriched.

Kevin: The arts community on campus has a long history of involvement with the Egyptian Theatre, why do you feel the community involvement is important for both NIU and the Theatre?

Paul: Without an audience, art doesn’t exist–or at least, it cannot reach its full potential.  My goal has always been to help things become their full selves.  A community cannot become its full self without a strong relationship to the arts and learning. We have all the pieces here in DeKalb–CVPA, NIU, a thriving community– and the Egyptian is at the epi-center!

NIU School of Music website
NIU School of Art website
NIU School of Theatre and Dance website