Godwaldt sets the scene

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Finding the Bethel College Theatre Department's technical director is not as easy as some people would have you believe. The obvious place to find Johan Godwalt would be in the scene shop, getting things prepared for one of the theatre department’s upcoming performances. However, if you go to the scene shop and ask one of the many students working there if Johan is around, they will give a hearty laugh and explain, “No one can keep track of him. You might have better luck if you wander around campus yelling for him.” Johan_Godwaldt_3_30_2012 No, finding Godwaldt is no easy task because he does so many things and is constantly on the move. Johan Godwaldt has been an associate professor of scene design and technical director at Bethel College for three and a half years. Before that, he worked at the State University of New York at Oswego for 16 years. “I was pursued, quite literally pursued,” said Godwaldt. “I said no to Bethel six times and finally said yes when it became obvious that this is the place I was supposed to be. This is where He wanted me.” An interesting thing happens if you ask a guy involved in the theater world why he first became involved in theater. Often, it seems, they will pause for a moment to reflect, abruptly laugh and then give you a very matter-of-fact answer: women. “The girl I was dating as a freshman in college was in theatre and so I wanted to spend more time with her,” he recalled. “I signed up. We’re all the same! She doesn’t even do theatre, not anymore!” The Bethel College Theatre Department is known for being a very close knit, almost family group. “It is very much like a family,"said Janelle Rundquist, a theater student. "It has its ups and downs, but in the end, they are there for you.” Department chair Richard Young fondly recalls moments where “during a devotion time, somebody shares a prayer request of a very personal and serious nature, and I don’t even say anything, the rest of the class just gathers around that person and prays for them and when that happens, it’s just wonderful.” Renowned theater director Constantin Stanislavski was quoted as saying “The director should know his actors like a father knows his children.” Godwaldt takes that to heart. He said the students are what drives him. “That is what I love,” Godwaldt said. “As a faculty member, I believe it’s beyond the classroom. It’s all about investing. Teaching is only a small portion. It’s really about helping them develop character, points of view and world views.” Godwaldt is a firm believer that, as a teacher, his job encompasses more than just a textbook education or solely classroom interactions. He has been there for students when they have had health issues. He recalls one time driving a student to physical therapy after they had been in a traumatic accident. The trips took two hours each way, but he said he did it without hesitation. “You end up getting involved if they have problems, things like psychological problems, dealing with depression, helping out with these things, that’s all part of being faculty,” Godwalt said in a very matter–of-fact manner. “Are there limits? No. Students have gotten ahold of me at 4 in the morning. To me, there are no limits. It’s whatever the student needs. That’s part of being faculty, that’s your choice.” Godwaldt is all over Bethel’s campus, helping in the auditorium, teaching in the fine arts wing, and working in the scene shop. He has even registered for ASL classes to better serve the deaf community. He said when his students succeed in their craft, then is the time when he feels truly rewarded. He can’t help but be proud of what he has been a part of and involved in. “One of my students landed a national tour for ‘Les Miserables,’" he said. "Another student became the lead stage manager for the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Broadway tour. Those are pivotal moments. That’s why I do this.”
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