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For FSU Theater Prof, Career in Stage Was a ‘Diviner’ Intervention

November 7, 2018

The Fitchburg State University Main Stage Theater program rehearses recently for their play "The Diviners," which opens tonight. Rehearsing a scene are Cheyenne Winley, playing Jenny-Mae Layman, Daniel Hankins, center, playing Buddy Layman, and Ken Roberts, playing Ferris Layman. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE photos /JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- Cap Corduan, technical theater professor at Fitchburg State University, has been setting the stage for her students’ post-graduation careers for the past 18 years.

Corduan is directing the FSU fall main-stage production of “The Diviners,” opening Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Wallace Theatre for the Performing Arts, McKay Complex, 67 Rindge Road. There will be 10 free performances between today and Saturday, Nov. 17.

She was first introduced to the life of theater when she was a child growing up in Connecticut. Her mom was involved with a musical theater group and once Corduan got up on stage for her first play, she knew it wasn’t for her.

Corduan was taken in by the tech team and was hooked. She continued to do it all through junior high and high school. But even though her sets were always well put together, her student life wasn’t.

“I was a horrible student when I was in high school. I have dyslexia and other learning disabilities so I was like, ‘Sit still? Forget that crap,’” said Corduan.

She never really considered going to college before being told to think about it. She attended Central Connecticut State University, where an adviser turned things around for her and encouraged her to earn her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in theatre design.

After earning a master’s degree in fine arts in design and technology from the University of Illinois, Corduan worked as technical director for the Empire State Institute of Performing Arts before moving on to various freelance jobs, such as working at Disney and laying out the full design system for Mohegan Sun.

But once she was in the professional world, she hated how cut-throat it was and how she couldn’t do all the different aspects she wanted to.

“I actually went back to my college adviser and he said, ‘You know, you should think about teaching,’ and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Corduan said with a laugh.

She decided to give it a try, and hasn’t gone back since.

“Even on days when I feel like I can’t even get out of bed, I think, ‘No, I’ve got the kids -- they’ll liven me up,’ and they always do,” she said.

Corduan came to FSU in 1999 to teach technical theater when the theater program was just coming together. Since then, she has completed several sabbaticals. When she’s not teaching, Corduan likes to play base drum for a fife and drum core. She is also the director of an international junior fife and drum camp during the summer.

When school’s in session, though, Corduan makes sure her students understand all parts of the production aspect, and she definitely sets them up for success -- she has a 99 percent placement rate for her students in their field and always keeps in touch with each one.

“It’s all about how I can help the kids. These guys have enough problems trying to figure out the world. If it can be a little bit more interesting and more fun to follow a dream, I want to help them do it,” said Corduan.

One of her past students, Dan Daly, is coming back to FSU to be the scenic designer for “The Diviners.” He graduated from FSU in 2009 and works in Brooklyn as a scenic designer and visual artist.

“The Diviners” is about a disturbed young man and his friendship with a disenchanted preacher in a small, Depression-era town in southern Indiana, and how everyone is shaken when tragedy strikes.

“I just felt that it said something to me and I think it will say something to the audience,” said Corduan.

Between the different directing styles of herself and the other theater professors, she said the students get a better understanding of what it’s like to work in the professional world.

“I’m not an actor so I rely a lot on their artistry,” she said. “They’ve had to do a lot of work on their own.”

Despite how much she teaches her students, Corduan said directing for “The Diviners” has reaffirmed how much she learns from them.

“It will be really fun this time to just sit in the back of the theater and be proud of the whole production team,” she said. “Now I get to see them just blossom.”

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