Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Reid Edelman
Reid Edelman, Professor of Theatre Arts, grew up in San Francisco, where his grandfather taught him to fix and build things with tools. When he was accepted at Lick-Wilmerding High School (LWHS), a unique academic school with a focus on the technical arts, he was delighted with the opportunity to study such skills as woodworking, machine fabrication, and metal work.
A fan of Broadway musicals since childhood, Edelman was disappointed to find that LWHS did not offer a theatre arts program. As a sophomore, he approached the principal with an offer to direct a Broadway musical on campus; to his delight, he was given both permission and a budget of $500. Edelman admits that his enthusiasm for this project was "naive and bold," yet he did produce and direct the musical "Cabaret" on campus that year. The program was a hit, and Edelman continued to direct a musical on campus each year.
After earning a BA degree at Stanford University with a double major in drama and English, Edelman moved on to the prestigious Professional Actor Training Program at Rutgers University in New Jersey. After one year, realizing he was more cut out to be a director than an actor, he returned to Stanford where he started a small professional theatre company, the Stanford Actors Project. This company eventually relocated to San Francisco and incorporated as the Harvest Theatre Company. Edelman directed this successful company for seven years. During this time, he also started teaching theatre and English at his alma mater LWHS.
In 1995, while on sabbatical from his teaching job, he entered the Ed.M. program at at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. His work at Harvard focused on teaching creativity and the arts in education. Edelman notes that one of his professors was Howard Gardner, who developed the theory of multiple intelligences.
Edelman's early career included acting in the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, the Marin Shakespeare Company, and a wonderful summer training at ACT in San Francisco. However, to finance his education, he also worked as a bank teller, a theatre house manager, a department store sales person, and a restaurant busboy.
After teaching for 13 years at LWHS, Edelman and his wife, Deborah, decided they were ready to leave city life, and began to consider employment in small towns. While Edelman had never been to Ukiah until his interview for the theatre arts position at Mendocino College, he had heard about it from a LWHS student who came to the SPACE performing arts summer camp.
Edelman says he researched the area and was impressed by this "wonderful art mecca" two hours' north of San Francisco. He says he was astonished by the beautiful new theatre at Mendocino College. While it was a huge change from city life, he and his wife decided to "give it at least a year" ten years ago.
Edelman says he is delighted that he had 20 transfer-bound theatre majors enrolled in theatre classes this year, in addition to general education students and community members. He notes that while most of his students will never be professional actors, the art of creative collaboration is the most important skill he teaches. He is proud to have developed a cohesive theatre program at Mendocino College which integrates studio classes and a high quality season of public performances.
When he is not working, Edelman enjoys family time with his wife, Deborah, and his sons Eli and Noah. An avid horseman, gardener, and chess player, he recently began studying Spanish.