This is Susan Berkompas. She is the professor of acting and directing at VU and chair of the theatre arts department. Among her many duties, she selects the production season each year.
Susan was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana, where she wrote her first play in fourth grade called Seamore the Dolphin. She remembers being drawn to her creative endeavor, "I always wanted to write, act, direct and produce. I didn't want to fall in love with theatre, but I just did." Susan attended different colleges in Billings, Helena, and finally Missoula, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting and directing from the University of Montana. Susan remembers Missoula as a small, liberal, artistic town that resembles a smaller version of San Francisco.
In college, she went in as a communication major and then switched to education before finally deciding on theatre where she felt God was calling her. Susan grew up with an older sister named Maria, who is three years older and works in business and marketing. "I was close to my father. None of my family know the Lord. It's one of those things where it's an automatic divide. We are close now, but there is only a certain amount of distance you can go when you are born again, and they are not. I've shared about the Lord with them many times but it's really in their court now." Susan's mom is from South Korea, and Susan jokes about only knowing how to say a few Korean salutations and body parts as far speaking the language goes.
As a child, Susan was never introduced to theatre because her elementary and junior high school did not offer any plays. She also grew up with a television that only had two channels, three and five. Although, in high school and college too, she had the opportunity to play one of her favorite characters named Desdemona from Shakespeare's 17th century tragedy, Othello, a story about a Venetian woman who disappoints her father and runs away with a black soldier named Othello. Susan had the opportunity to study acting and Shakespeare in England at Oxford University with the British American Drama Academy with the foremost expert in playing Shakespeare, Sir John Barton. He co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company with Sir Peter Hall, where he directed over 50 productions.
"I love working with British actors, because a lot of them are wonderfully stage trained, and it's an aesthetic that's very familiar to me. Some of the best actors around are British, and they are all my favorites," Susan says.
Susan received her Masters of Fine Arts in acting and directing from CalRep in Long Beach, CA. She is also the founder and producing artistic director of the American Coast Theater Company that works in collaboration with Vanguard as the professional arm of the theatre program. She has taught and served as the theatre department chair for 23 years at VU. She loves her students beyond measure. She helps oversee everything from auditions and internships to production. Some of her notable directing projects have been: The Boys Next Door, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Life Without Parole, Metamorphoses, Kiss Me Kate, The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee, The Lord of the Flies, Around the World in 80 Days and 9 to 5.
When Susan is not working, she enjoys taking walks with her fur baby, Wesley, and watching feature films and streaming shows from the comfort of her bed. In the future, when she has more time, she would love to continue writing, pitching scripts for different television shows and movies.
This weekend, Vanguard will be opening a production of the hit musical, West Side Story, at the Lyceum Theater; and Susan is directing the final mainstage hit comedy by Neil Simon called Rumors. Tickets are available online. Vanguard is so thankful for Susan's vision, creative leadership and heart that she continues to bring to the theatre department.
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