May 9, 2007
By Katelyn Burkhart
David Bower, an assistant professor of teacher education, loves to break the rules and his unconventional methods of writing, teaching and directing have made him a well-known figure around Athens.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Bower moved to New Mexico nearly 20 years ago to begin a career in teaching. He taught high school English and theater before becoming a middle school principal, a job that really required his directorial skills.
"Hiring teachers is like casting a play, professional development is the rehearsal, then I just moved out of the way and let the teachers shine -- and it seems to work great!"
When the College of Education came knocking in 2003, Bower knew almost immediately that he belonged in Athens. "Even in my interview, I knew OU was going to be a good fit for me. I felt like it was a place I could bring my creative qualities to work."
Spielberg, Scorsese, Spike Lee -- great directors, but what do they know about chaos theory?
Making the move to Ohio offered Bower another benefit: getting back into the classroom. "I did my dissertation on chaos theory and everyone would laugh and say, 'It's because middle schools are chaotic!' but I really think chaos theory has a natural connection to education and theater." It made me see organizations in a different way; how we can make them places where people can be creative because I think we need that in schools. Teachers are so overburdened with testing responsibilities these days. I want to approach the teaching role differently, and I encourage my students to do the same."
For Bower, approaching the role in a unique way means using the skills he has learned in the theater as a director. "It's like being a coach; you give them that preparation, then you send them out to accomplish a goal."
Bower finds himself in the role of teacher, director and mentor as he coaches the the Collegiate Middle Level Association (CMLA), a professional education organization for students who plan to teach the middle grades. CMLA's numbers were dwindling in 2003. "The middle childhood program was just a few years old when I got here, and there was a need to bring focus to that group." Now just four years later, Ohio University's CMLA has grown to be the largest chapter in the state with Bower as adviser and co-sponsor.
The play's the thing
Today, Bower's years of directing on the stage and in the classroom are serving him well. He is directing the Athenian Players Theatre's production of "An Evening of Comedy," running May 10-13 at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville.
"I got involved in community theater almost 40 years ago, and I still love it!" raves Bower. "Whether it's Albuquerque or Athens, it's always fresh and exhilarating."
"An Evening of Comedy" is a compilation of three one-act plays. "Adaptation," "Actor's Nightmare" and "Final Dress Rehearsal" each have different casts, which makes for a whirlwind experience. "I love to laugh, but even more than that I love improvisation and creativity," Bower says.
Bower, his cast and crew are adding plenty of personal touches to enhance the theater-going experience. "We're breaking all the rules in these plays. We have actors in the audience; you can see behind the scenes. We're trying to keep people guessing."
No one has to guess what Bower's true love is: teaching. "What I want to accomplish is to make people have fun; we need to laugh more. Teaching is not so much about filling up minds as it is about drawing creativity out."