Staged for success

Peter Reynolds stays busy as a director on and off campus.

Peter Reynolds doesn’t take days off. 

As the head of Temple’s musical theater department, Reynolds has dedicated his time and energy to doing what he enjoys most – directing musical theater productions at both Temple and professional theaters in Philadelphia.

“Balancing my two jobs is a lot of work,” Reynolds said.  “I work seven days a week.”

Since Fall 2007, Reynolds has taken part in the production of numerous Temple musicals, including last semester’s “Oklahoma!” Reynolds is also the artistic director at the Mauckingbird Theatre Company, a position he accepted in 2008.

Reynolds is directing “Beautiful Thing” at Mauckingbird Theatre, which will run until Sunday. The play was written by Jonathan Harvey about two teenage boys in London working on a housing project. After what begins as a supportive friendship where one boy’s father is abusive, the two characters fall in love.

“It is a sweet love story in bleak conditions,” Reynolds said.

Mauckingbird Theatre is unique in its mission to promote LGBTQ plays, according to Reynolds’ colleague.

“The Mauckingbird Theatre Company [is] committed to producing professional gay-themed theater while also exploring classic literature and musical genres and providing affordable productions of infrequently produced works,” said Marie Chiment, head of design in the Temple theater department. She said she has worked with Reynolds for years, both at the university and at Mauckingbird Theatre.

Throughout the production of “Beautiful Thing,” Reynolds said people from the “Temple family” have supported him in balancing his roles on and off campus. Many can attest to his commitment at the university and have also worked under his direction in professional performances.

Adjunct acting professor Cheryl Williams has been part of the professional cast of several plays directed by Reynolds. She’s also appeared on stage with him in other productions and said she has seen him grow in the theater world for many years.

“He is so gifted as a performer,” Williams said. “[He’s a] fantastic director with a true talent for assembling the most perfect casts and a great teacher and administrator. [He is] also a true gentleman.”

Reynolds said the way he prefers to direct allows the actor to explore their character and become one with their onstage personality. He said he doesn’t push for perfection from the start, but encourages a gradual familiarity with the character’s identity to strengthen into something tangible.

“[Reynolds] is very clear in his vision with each production, but gives his actors a great deal of freedom to create their character and how they live and operate in the particular world he wishes to see,” Chiment said.

Assistant professor in acting and musical theater Nancy Boykin said she knows from personal experience that it is a challenge for members of the theater world to balance a schedule the way Reynolds does. She has worked closely with Reynolds in the past few years at Temple and in the production of a few Mauckingbird performances.

He brings a wealth of knowledge to the stage, she said.

“[Reynolds] is dedicated to [directing] good plays that appeal to a wide variety of audiences,” Boykin said. “It is always difficult to balance teaching and side productions.”

Reynolds said he spends most of his time with productions on campus, preparing students for upcoming plays and musicals. Junior theater major Griffin Back has had many opportunities to grow and learn from the work he has participated in with Reynolds. Back has been acquainted with Reynolds in theater since he was 12 years old.

“He’s someone that I trust completely and was a big part of the reason I decided to come to Temple,” Back said. “I’ve worked with him more than any other director.”

Reynolds’ dedication to student-actors like Back has been noticed by his colleagues.

“Temple is lucky to have [Reynolds],” Boykin said. “He works tirelessly. He is devoted to the students and would do anything for them.”

Colleagues also noted the benefits of having Reynolds present on campus as well as at another theater, because his work at both places goes hand-in-hand, although the time commitment is consuming.

“The negative is that I can’t dedicate more time to Mauckingbird [because of what] I do at Temple,” Reynolds said. “The positive side is that my jobs affect one another, making me learn from [each experience].”

No matter how busy he is, Reynolds said he wouldn’t change anything about his schedule.

“I love doing what I do,” he said. “I love my job.”

Karlina Jones can be reached at 

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