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Honors Tutorial College

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Matthew Cornish

Aaron Long | Feb 23, 2017

Dr. Matthew Cornish, an assistant professor of theater history, is the new Director of Studies of the Honors Tutorial College’s theater program of study. He earned his doctorate at the Yale School of Drama and brings extensive professional experience to the position.

Cornish, who joined the OHIO faculty last academic year, sees parallels between a role on the stage and in the classroom.

“Being conscious of one’s voice and storytelling. How you use gesture and costume. Really, I think teaching and acting are very similar,” he said. “I even ask my students how they think I’ve costumed myself for the role.”

For Cornish, who has taught theater history tutorials, the primary draw of the HTC program is the agency it grants to professors and students alike.

“My favorite part of teaching tutorials is that you get to start from scratch in a different way than in a typical class,” he said. “I get to sit down with the students and brainstorm.”

Of course, such flexibility also impacts his role as an academic adviser. As Cornish notes, the hardest part of being a director of studies is often walking the line between providing hands-on and hands-off guidance.

“For most students, the biggest challenge is to provide scaffolding so they can build the buildings they need to build,” he said. “In HTC, we let them create whatever it is they want to create. But they’re still students. They still need guidance. It requires balance.”

Cornish’s adaptability is apparent in both his academic and professional interests. With dramaturgical experience at the Yale Repertory Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Son of Semele, and IAMA Theatre Company, he knows the rules of dramatic composition – and when to break them. This talent has imbued him with a passion for contemporary German theatre, which he explores through contributions to the magazine Theater der Zeit. His most recent articles include “Voracious Image Eaters: The Founders of Big Art Group Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson in Conversation with Matt Cornish” and “Actually not Brecht: Blackfacing can be used as a distancing effect – when the practice is reflected upon” (titles translated from original German). He also has three books in the works, including Performing Unification: History and Nation in the German Theater after 1989, which is slated for release in September 2017.

“German contemporary theatre is a vibrant, living art form,” he said. “There is a risk-taking that does not happen elsewhere. And there’s a support from the common person.”

This heady blend of creative daring and grassroots enthusiasm has informed Cornish as both an academic and a teacher, inspiring him to promote similar inventiveness in classroom settings. He emphasized that his goal was to un-inhibit students and provide them with the tools to truly innovate in the field.

“I just try and show them what is theatrically possible and what they can do,” he said. “Which is probably far more than they think they can do.”

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