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The Man Behind the Curtain: Robert Soffian

by Derek Yorton

          Robert Soffian is an inspired modern artist, a director of multiple plays and acts of theatre, but more importantly he was the main driving force for the Shasta College Theatre Department.

Soffian moved from the east coast and began working at Shasta College in 1986. He started to shape the minds of his student through the implication of classical, contemporary, and controversial oriented plays, such as Romeo and Juliet or August: Osage County.

The plays involved were chosen to give each and every student a wide variety of theatrical knowledge for when they move to a university and eventually into a career in Theatre. A fellow theatre teacher, Dean Munroe, had commented that “we don’t do standard theater plays, they are all academic based, controversial, and sometimes not appropriate for children.”

As a teacher, Robert Soffian would always push his students to their fullest potential and then some. He had a natural flare for the creative field and he was known for his unorthodox teaching style. Soffian brought his east coast demeanor into the classroom and, as a teacher, would “expand the notion of what theatre was” said David Fraser, the head Set Designer for the Theatre Department.

Not only did Robert have a firm grasp with the arts, but he had a way with his students. To quote an anonymous student from the website “Rate My Professor”: Soffian is definitely a nutcase. He swears like none other and is definitely not P.C., but he is awesome! He lectures 90% of the time, but 90% of the lecture is basically a comedy show. He is more than willing to help you understand something, and he is a very smart guy.

Robert Soffian’s teachings for Shasta College have ceased as he retired in 2013. However, his methods and style are still being used at the college’s Theatre Department by Dean Munroe and David Fraser. Soffian’s retirement also sets the stage for the Trinity Campus Supervisor, Ken Hill, to establish himself in the department. Ken Hill recently directed the Broadway smash hit “You Can’t Take It With You” at Shasta College.

Robert Soffian left some big shoes to fill when he left, but Ken is wearing them well.  Soffian’s legacy as a teacher will live on through his students in the knowledge and theatrical experience he has gifted them and hopefully through the college in the years to come. As the department heads to a new era of teaching styles and learning experiences, it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

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