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Westminster College Theatre Professor Awarded Prize for Innovative Teaching

Posted on Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Dr. Scott Mackenzie, Westminster College associate professor and director of theatre, was recently awarded the Prize for Innovative Teaching in Theatre from the Association of Theatre in Higher Education and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region II (ATHE/KCACTF). Region II includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, northwest New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Mackenzie was given the honor based on the "Performing Peace" cluster course he taught at Westminster with Dr. Sherri Pataki, associate professor of psychology. At Westminster, a cluster is two linked courses taught by at least two faculty members from different disciplines to the same group of students, offering opportunities to integrate knowledge and to develop into a community of learners. All students are required to take at least one cluster.

This particular cluster focused on social issues related to labor and migration, which students learned about in Pataki's Peace Studies Seminar course, and then created a production around the central theme in Mackenzie's Theatre and Social Engagement course.

"This cluster is one of the most rewarding things I do on campus, because we start the semester with just an idea and we end with a production the students have created," Mackenzie said. "We raise awareness, and often funds to support organizations that fight for human rights."

The students created a production titled Caught in Traffic, which focused on human trafficking in both the United States and internationally. Two years ago students created #Enough, a play about rape as a weapon of war in the Congo; and during Mackenzie's first cluster students created Never Again….Again about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Mackenzie was nominated for the award by both Pataki and Dr. Andrew Ade, associate professor of English.

"After teaching the Performing Peace cluster with Scott several times, I knew he was an ideal candidate for this innovative teaching award," Pataki said.  "The Performing Peace cluster itself was created through Scott's initiative and combines his Theatre and Social Engagement course with a Peace Studies seminar."

Pataki continues, "Each semester we focus on a current social issue and Scott skillfully leads students through the devising process.  By the end of the semester, under Scott's guidance, students create a completely original theatre performance based on their own writing and development throughout the semester.  The performance not only raises public awareness for the audience, but also empowers our students to know that they have a voice and can make a difference in the world."

Mackenzie, who joined the faculty in 2001, is a certified associate teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework, who has acting experience in film, television, and theatre and has directed over 30 productions.  Mackenzie co-wrote, produced, and directed Out of the Fire: Voices of the Holocaust for the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts.  While on active duty with the United States Army Reserve, he directed Bigfoot Stole My Wife, the first show produced entirely by military and civilian personnel stationed in Baghdad's International Zone.

Mackenzie earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas, master of fine arts in acting from Michigan State University and a Ph. D. from Wayne State University.

Both the ATHE and KCACTF are organizations dedicated to college and university theatre. ATHE is more faculty focused and its mission is to support and advocate for the study of theatre and performance in higher education and promote professional development of the organization's members. KCACTF festivals are primarily for students, and the organization encourages productions of new plays written by students and recognizes students with awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.

Contact Mackenzie at 724-946-6238 or email for more information.

Dr. Scott Mackenzie, associate professor and director of theatre